Sir John Major and the Reynolds Family at the Inagural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture on Monday. Photos: Shelley Corcoran
The close personal and professional relationship enjoyed between the late Albert Reynolds and his British counterpart Sir John Major has been described as nothing short of “remarkable”.
The two men have been widely extolled with setting Northern Ireland on its path to lasting peace, courtesy of the pair's co-signing of the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993.
The fruits of those labours reach their 25th anniversary on Saturday, something which was not lost on the former Tory leader as he spoke at the opening of the Inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture in Longford on Monday.
“Albert was an optimist, much more inclined to say ‘we can do this’ than to rule anything out,” said Mr Major, amid hushed silence at a full to capacity Backstage Theatre.
“Some politicians are no more than ambitious concoctions, but Albert was the real deal in practice and in spirit.
“To Albert, a deal not made was a failure.”
Mr Major also told of the unease both men would have undoubtedly shared over the current impasse surrounding Brexit.
In doing so, he said he was consistently reminded about the calming and optimistic approach his long time political ally would have brought to the talks had he been around today.
“Many futures depend on it both in my country and in yours,” he told onlookers.
“And, as I say that, I can hear Albert’s lilting voice pushing us on towards a sensible deal and we must do everything we can not to let him down in finding one.”
But perhaps the most striking insight into both men's innate mutual respect came from the late Mr Reynolds' son, Philip.
“I can tell you that it must have been a remarkable relationship between those two men because every time the name Albert Reynolds gets mentioned Sir John responds to that,” he said, as he expressed his regret at the enforced absence of his mum, Kathleen from the occasion.
And, in turning to face his father's long time friend directly, Mr Reynolds said:
“You mentioned about Dad giggling (in Heaven), I'll tell you one thing Dad is giggling about today and that's the fact his friendship has managed to bring you to the county where it all started.”