Former 26-County Taoiseach Albert Reynolds died in the early hours of this morning following a long illness. He was 81 years old.
Born in Rooskey in County Roscommon, Mr Reynolds became a successful businessman and politician in adult life. He served as a minister in several government departments and was twice elected Taoiseach.
Fianna Fail said Mr Reynolds’ greatest achievement was in the North of Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, signing the Downing Street Declaration in 1993. That declaration paved the way for the 1994 IRA ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement four years later.
A highly successful businessman, he entered politics at the age of 44, already a millionaire. He became a member of the Dail at the 1977 general election. By 1979 he was campaigning for his predecessor, Charles Haughey to take over his party’s leadership.
His support was rewarded when, after Haughey became Taoiseach, Reynolds was made minister for post and telegraphs and later minister for transport.
Reynolds remained a Haughey loyalist in successive governments and, in 1987, was appointed minister for industry and commerce, one of the cabinet’s most senior positions, key to aiding Ireland’s economic recovery.
The following year, he succeeded Ray MacSharry as finance minister. When disillusionment with Charles Haughey’s leadership began soon afterwards, Reynolds and his supporters in the Fianna Fail party supported a no-confidence motion against him.
When it was lost, Reynolds was sacked and his political career seemed over. But as Charles Haughey’s leadership ended amid a welter of political scandals, Reynolds succeeded him in the ensuing leadership election. He made his mark as Taoiseach straight away by sacking Haughey loyalists -- with the exception of the future Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
In 1993, he helped negotiate the Downing Street Declaration. Working with British prime minister John Major, he personally did much to bring the two sides together in the peace process, and critically helped bring the US administration on board.
His coalition government with the Labour Party collapsed over an affair involving the Attorney-General, Harry Whelehan. Whelehan had been severely criticised for failing to prosecute a Catholic priest who had been accused of sexually abusing children.
He retired from politics in 2002.
Sinn President Gerry Adams expressed his condolences to the family of the former Taoiseach. Mr Adams said: “I’m really sorry to hear of the death of Albert Reynolds. Albert acted on the North when it mattered. My thoughts are with Kathleen and all the Reynolds family. May he rest in peace.”