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TV | Premiere of ‘The Secret Peacemaker’ this Easter Sunday

Father Reid photographed trying to save the life of a British corporal.
Father Reid photographed trying to save the life of a British corporal. (Credit: Laura Hutton)

To mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, on 10th April 1998, this landmark drama-documentary, set to be broadcast on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player, tells the inspiring story of Fr Alec Reid, the maverick, Tipperary-raised Redemptorist priest, whose vision, tenacity and secret diplomacy brought an end to armed conflict in Northern Ireland.

In 1988, after years of studiously avoiding press and public attention, Father Reid first came to the world’s attention, after he was photographed trying to save the life of a British corporal, beaten and shot in the aftermath of an IRA funeral. The haunted face of Father Reid, as he administered the Last Rites somehow epitomised the best and worst of the human impact of the Troubles.

Unknown to most, though, that photograph also captured the secret peacemaker at work. In Fr Reid's jacket pocket that day were the first documents of a fledgling plan to end the conflict.

Based on interviews recorded with Fr Reid before his death, ten years ago, this film charts his ambitious and perilous peace mission to stop the killing.

Pictured, Father Reid.
Pictured, Father Reid. (Credit: David Cairns)

We meet some of the key players in that drama, much of which unfolded in secret. Contributors include former Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries, Jake Mac Siacais and David “Packie” Hamilton; peacemakers, Monica McWilliams, the Rev Harold Good and the Rev Ken Newell; former Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams; former SDLP Deputy Leader, Bríd Rodgers; former UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt; the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Ian Jeffers; and journalists, Tim Pat Coogan, Brendan O’Brien and Mark Devenport.

Speaking on Fr Alec:

“Behind the scenes he was seeking to find a solution. That was the man’s heart.  It’s love and compassion” -  former Loyalist paramilitary, David “Packie” Hamilton.

“I think saying "I represent the next victim" was a very brave thing to do, because it put a face on the victim. This was a person.  It could have been a member of your family.” - Ian Jeffers, Commissioner for Victims and Survivors.

“Father Reid understood the importance of the psychology of peacebuilding which is, when you sit down to make peace, you don’t make it with your friends.” - Monica McWilliams, Human Rights activist and Co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition.

“I think it would be wrong to think of Alec Reid as either naïve or saintly. He was a practical man. He knew how to identify people who he could trust and who would trust him.” - Brendan O’Brien, Author and Journalist.

The film also features acclaimed Irish actor, Marty Rea, as Fr Alec in dramatic reconstructions of key events.

The Secret Peacemaker will be broadcast at 10.30pm on Easter Sunday, 9th April, on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player. 

The programme will also be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland at 11:00pm on Easter Monday, 10th April.


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