Posted By: September 01, 2014

Tom Kelly. Irish News ( Belfast). Monday, September 1, 2014.

IN 1960 an opera singer called Leonard Warren died during a performance of Verdi's
La Forza del Destino (the power of fate), he had just completed an aria which began
"morir, tremenda cosa" which translated means " to die, a momentus thing."

It struck me that there must be something satisfying about passing away at an
appropriate moment and with an appreciative audience. Albert Reynolds may not have
died while still performing but there was no doubt that he was more than a strolling
troubadour in our recent troubled history. There is even less doubt that his timing
was supreme.

His most significant achievement was by far the Downing Street Declaration and
without it there would have been no IRA ceasefire and no Good Friday Agreement. To
do what he had to do in British/Irish relations he believed required simplistic
notions and vague understandings; or perhaps even misunderstandings to be agreed in
principle. To his credit he lived in a world where everything was transactional.
Handshakes, nods and winks were his craft and that's how he sealed deals.

Although he was a relatively short-lived holder of the job he most coveted, as
Taoiseach he was the right man at the right time, when an even braver politician and
under-rated prime minister also held tenure by his finger tips in Downing Street.
There can have been no warmer tribute for one politician for another than that made
by John Major about Albert Reynolds.

The death of Reynolds nearly coincided with the 20th anniversary of the much written
about IRA statement on cessation of hostilities and the faux loyalist one that will
soon follow. There's no doubt that these anniversaries softened many criticisms of
Reynolds. Here was another great peacemaker off to make his final peace. Reynolds
has more than secured his footnote in the tomes of literature yet to be written
about peace process players that has more pawns than a chess board.

Writing about the Northern Ireland peace process is like trying to hold ground on
quick sand. One wrong word will portray one as anti-peace process or season ticket
holder. But our history will never be another's history.

Firstly, the old IRA failed the beleaguered Catholic community in Northern Ireland
when they were besieged. The new IRA could hardly hold its own before the inevitable

The IRA leaders never led on the civil rights movement but radical students,
teachers, communists, the left, social democrats, moderate nationalists and liberal
unionists did.

Mainstream political unionists did run Northern Ireland like a public school junta
by Protestant elites for Protestant elites. Working class Protestants were treated
like cannon fodder by their representatives but bound together by a diet of
suspicion, fear, religious intolerance and the promise of jobs.

The British government was shamed into action on the north and the Irish government
was dragged into it. Policing in Northern Ireland had become so partisan that Iain
Smith's policing of the then Rhodesia seemed more impartial. The British army were
brought into police Northern Ireland with all the skills of Attila the Hun and
Colonel Blimp combined. And then the cycle of Armageddon started: Bloody Sunday,
Bloody Friday, Ballymurphy, Kingsmills, Miami Showband, La Mon, the Shankill
Butchers, McGurk's bar, Guildford Four, the Maguires, Warrenpoint, hunger strikers,
Loughgall, Gibraltar, Enniskillen, Loughinisland, Greysteel and the list goes on. It
got to a stage were there were no lines between where paramilitarism ended and state
sponsored terrorism began. It was not so much a dirty war as a cesspit and
throughout it all, each of the main belligerents and protagonists from all sides
were speaking on and off to each other since 1973.

Paramilitaries had guidelines to protect each others turfs. Seemingly, securocrat
authorities let prostitution, protection rackets, drugs, cigarette and fuel
laundering to take place to protect murdering and profiteering touts. It became so
complicated it was impossible to know who was running who.

Mostly the public paid a price too dear to ask of anyone for all of this
criminality, collaboration and cover-up. But in whose name? Were you asked?

Of course peace eventually came, as all wars, especially wars of attrition become
too hard and too expensive to maintain. And yes things are better than before -
people are not dying and at least now we like to think we who are the goodies and
baddies but please, please don't expect me to celebrate the cessation of things not
done in my name. "Morir tremenda cosa" yes, but of natural causes or an accident and
no applause.