Irish example for Basque peace process
Irish example for Basque peace process

Tributes have been paid to the Irish role in bringing about the ceasefire by Basque separatist group ETA, particularly that of peace intermediary Fr Alec Reid.

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who was also involved in discussions with the Basque separatists, described the Belfast Redemptorist priest as a remarkable and dedicated proponent of peace.

“I went to the Basque country on a number of occasions and each time they mentioned that Fr Reid was trying to persuade them to take the road of peace. His commitment to peace in Ireland and in Spain was exceptional,” he said.

Former SDLP leader John Hume also praised Fr Reid, who was instrumental in bringing about a ceasefire by the Provisional IRA and acted as a witness to its arms decommissioning last year.

“There is no doubt that Fr Alec has committed his whole life to promoting peace and encouraging people that there is another way to go forward, other than violence,” he said.

The Tipperary-born priest spent more than 40 years at Clonard Monastery on the Falls Road in west Belfast.

He is acknowledged as having promoted peace efforts from 1969, and by 1986 was involved in talks with then taoiseach Charles Haughey.

In 1987 he also arranged the first series of talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume.

Senior republicans, including Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey and Gerry Kelly, were also involved in the negotiations which led to the ETA ceasefire.

Mr Maskey said the lessons learned in the North of Ireland had been invaluable to those negotiating a peace deal in Spain.

He said senior members of Sinn Féin had visited the Basque region of northern Spain and people from that area had come to Ireland.

Mr Maskey said they examined “in some considerable detail the pros and cons of our peace process, the often convoluted twists and turns” of the process in Ireland.

He added that they were “learning the lessons essentially of how we have managed to move from a situation of conflict through negotiations into trying to find a way forward through peaceful dialogue”.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have also been credited with helping to bring about the ETA ceasefire.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that Mr Ahern had on several occasions acted as an advisor to Spanish leaders, while Blair participated “very actively” in setting out strategy.

There are plans to launch talks between ETA and the government about the situation of more than 600 imprisoned ETA activists parallel to Basque party talks about the future of the region.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News