Northern Ireland

Church figures rebuff Ruth Dudley-Edwards' 'false characterisation' of late Clonard priests

The late Clonard priests Fr Gerry Reynolds and Fr Alec Reid
The late Clonard priests Fr Gerry Reynolds and Fr Alec Reid The late Clonard priests Fr Gerry Reynolds and Fr Alec Reid

PROMINENT figures from three of Ireland's main churches have defended the reputations of two Redemptorist priests who played a key role in the peace process.

The late Clonard priests Fr Alec Reid and Fr Gerry Reynolds were last month labelled "IRA sympathisers" in an opinion piece by Ruth Dudley-Edwards in the News Letter.

But former Presbyterian moderator Rev Ken Newell, former Methodist president Rev Harold Good, and Clonard Rector Rev Peter Burns have strongly rebuffed the claim.

In a letter to the paper, the churchmen said they "took great exception to the false characterisation" of the two priests.

"We have known them and worked with them for a large part of our lives and can honestly assure your readers that nothing could be further from the truth," they wrote.

"We cannot therefore remain silent and allow the article to go unchallenged."

They said the two priests "devoted decades of their lives" to peace-making and reconciliation in the north.

"It is a historically recognised fact that Fr Reid was instrumental in helping to broker the IRA ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement," the letter stated.

"He was persistent in his efforts to persuade the republican movement, and indeed loyalists, to lay down their arms and pursue their aims exclusively through democratic politics."

The senior clerics stress that Clonard's name was not "sullied" by the two priests as claimed in the original article.

"It (Clonard Monastery) is today respected as one of the most open, welcoming and inclusive sacred spaces in the city for those of various religious, social and political convictions and none," they said.

They describe the article's assertions as "hollow and painful", and without foundation.