The vision of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who is in the ‘very late stages’ of Alzheimer’s, has been praised as events were staged to mark the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration.
Mr Reynolds’ son Philip told Shannonside Radio that his father now requires 24-hour care, and he is unable to have conversations with people.
Signed on December 15, 1993, by Mr Reynolds and then British Prime Minister John Major, the Downing Street Declaration marked a new beginning in Anglo/Irish relations and it paved the way for the August 1994 IRA ceasefire and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
At a commemorative event in Iveagh House, Sir John Major (70) said he and Albert Reynolds (81) risked their careers in 1993.
Mr Major visited Mr Reynolds and he paid tribute to him, “Albert, I see you too rarely these days, but think of you often. I am proud to call you a friend.”
He added, “If Albert and I upset our supporters, we might, as Albert cheerily said, ‘be kicked out’. That was true, but the IRA supporters were more deadly than our backbench colleagues, and their leaders were taking risks too.”
The audience included Mr Reynolds’s wife Kathleen, their daughters, Emer, Andrea and Cathy, and their son, Philip.
Philip, who didn’t rule out the prospect of seeking election in the future, said of his father, “Right now he’s pretty bad. He has 24-hour care.”
He added, “A sure sign of that is when you see that my mum was representing him last week. It was difficult to get my mum to come to the Temperance Hall or the Mall( in Longford town) when he was elected.
“To get her to go out front and represent him says everything about how he is himself. If he had been any way well enough, he would, of course, have been there.”
At a selection convention in the Longford Arms Hotel, Dara Calleary TD remarked, “The enormous significance of the Downing Street declaration may have been lost in the passage of time. However, without it, the subsequent peace process would not have been the success it is and without Albert Reynolds there would have been no declaration.”
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said, “Mr Reynolds built a trust between an Irish Taoiseach and a British Prime Minister that was rare if not unique up to that point. In doing so, they created something indispensable.”