On opposite sides of the dispute in Northern Ireland, Father Alec Reid and the Reverend Dr. Roy Magee each risked their lives and reputations in search of peace. It was the history of their land that called each of them to peacemaking, but it was their deeply held religious convictions that helped them to answer the call.
Although the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland has simmered for centuries, sectarian violence rose to new levels in the mid-1960s. At the time, Father Reid and the Rev. Magee were beginning their separate careers in the church, and both felt a strong calling to help diffuse the conflict. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Protestant clergy and most prominent political figures, Reid and Magee believed that engaging paramilitary groups like the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defense Association was the only way to stop the violence.
Drawing inspiration from the example of Jesus, both men took extraordinary personal risks to reach—and redeem—those responsible for perpetrating the conflict. Rev. Magee patrolled the streets at night to prevent escalating violence, while Father Reid worked in prisons to resolve a standoff over hunger strikes.
Through the years, as Magee and Reid gained credibility with their constituencies and developed important relationships with political leaders, their hard work paid dividends. Their crowning achievement came in 1998, when their success in negotiating cease-fires with the paramilitaries opened the way for the historic Good Friday Agreement, which established a power- sharing agreement between Protestants and Catholics. As Gerry Adams, the President of the political party Sinn Féin, recalled after the agreement: “We would not have even the possibility of a peace process if it wasn’t for the unstinting, patient, diligent work of [Father Reid].”
Following their historic achievements, both men continued to promote peace in areas of violent conflict. In 2006, Father Reid was instrumental in brokering a ceasefire with the Basque separatist group, ETA, in Spain. Father Alec Reid died on November 22, 2013 in Dublin Ireland. He was 82. Click here to read Father Reid’s memorial page.