Peacebuilder Fr Alex Reid was remembered at a special celebration in his honour at the Redemptorist monastery of Clonard in Belfast last weekend.
Organised at the behest of the Co. Tipperary and Co. Antrim GAA boards, the memorial Mass saw the champion Senior All Ireland hurling team join with their northern counterparts to both remember a priest with firm links to Tipperary - Fr Reid was a member of the Tipperary Minor hurling panel which won the All-Ireland in 1949.
In recognition of this, and Fr Reid’s enduring legacy on the Peace Process, the Mass saw the unveiling by the Tipperary and Antrim county chairmen of one of three plaques made in his honour. While this plaque will remain in Clonard, a second will be situated in the redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, and a third will be erected in Tipperary.
Also present at the event was GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl who, in addressing the congregation, said he was “honoured, in a time when people are building walls, to play a part in honouring a man who built bridges”.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic after the event, Fr Noel Kehoe, rector of Clonard said that throughout Fr Alec’s life at Clonard, “his GAA ‘credentials’ were very obvious to his fellow Redemptorists”.
“Alex was born in Dublin and always shouted for the Dubs in football. He grew up in Nenagh and from an early age he played hurling and supported the Tipp hurlers.
“In the 1990s, when members of the community used to ask him how things were going in the peace negotiations between the various parties in the North, if things were going badly he’d say: ‘We’ll have to put the Holy Spirit in goal’ and if things were going well, the Holy Spirit was a centre forward.
“The GAA featured very highly in Alec’s world-view. Throughout his life, he remained a serious fan of both hurling and football. In his retirement he watched and re-watched GAA matches over and over again; he had a large collection of videos of National League and All-Ireland games and not only of the finals.”
Fr Keho added: “The events commemorating Fr Alec Reid were a timely reminder of how our world needs people who build bridges and not walls [and] the work of reconciliation is central to the missionary call of the Redemptorists. Recent political upheavals in the North and indeed internationally have heightened a rhetoric of sectarianism, of exclusion. Peace building is a never ending endeavour, so the reconciling mission of the Redemptorists must find new voices, new Fr Alecs in today’s world.”
Among those present at Clonard to remember and honour Fr Reid were Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Tipperary Lord Mayor Siobhan Ambrose, and Nenagh District Mayor Phyll Bugler.