of the peace process
BY JAMES PENN
A NUMBER OF CATHOLIC clergymen were at the forefront of the negotiations that led to the recent IRA ceasefire.
The private talks they had with the terrorists helped sway their decision to put a stop to the violence and try to advance their cause by peaceful means.
One was the former Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly, who hadn't spoken to the IRA for 16 years till 1991. His discussions with republicans such as Martin McGuinness and Mitchel McLaughlin continued till he suffered a stroke in early 1993.
"At that time I knew John Hume was already having some meetings. I'd been on a retreat and felt something should be done to break the log jam. I invited Mitchel McLaughlin to talk and was encouraged. I found that there was an openness towards ending the violence I hadn't
detected before", he told the Catholic Herald this week.
"I had said very hard things about them in public. They likewise had criticised me. I was still as opposed to violence as I had ever felt and stressed the incompatibility of the use of violence with Catholic life and practice. They listened to me and argued their point of view.
"I know a couple of them certainly believed in God, but a lot of those people disagree with the Church's teaching. They felt quite strongly that their use of violence was morally justified. This has always been one of the ongoing arguments between the clergy and the congregation."
Throughout, Bishop Daly kept in touch with the SDLP leader. "I was in contact with John Hume all through his discussions. He kept me abreast and from time to time briefed me on his progress. I have enormous admiration for him and think enormous credit is due to him."
"My work helped to bring them in from the isolation they faced. In organisations like that people only have the opportunity of talking to those that agree with them. It's very introverted."
Two other priests, Fr Gerry Reynolds and Fr Alex Reid both of Clonard monastery in the Provos' west Belfast heartland, played an even bigger part. They were reluctant to talk, though.
"We're still walking on eggs at the moment and the best thing for us is to be very discreet," said Fr Reynolds.
Meanwhile, another priest who has re-entered the news in the midst of all the recent Irish coverage is Fr Patrick Ryan, who successfully avoided extradition by the British for conspiracy to cause explosions and IRA fundraising charges. Last weekend he motored all the way up to the Fermanagh border from Tipperary to help rebuild one of the border bridges the British army has repeatedly destroyed. "I always come up when the boys are opening the road here," he said.
Meanwhile the Pope has written to Cardinal Cahal Daly saying: "The members of both comthunities, Catholic and Protestant, are now being challenged earnestly to implement the Gospel demands of love, forgiveness and reconciliation."
The Pope also prayed for "wisdom, prudence, courage and patience" for all involved in the peace process.
In return, Bishop Daly was confident that the ceasefire would have a positive effect on the future of Ireland: "It is genuine and has great potential. It's the greatest opportunity for peace for many many years."
The bishop added: "There's a tremendous atmosphere of hope in this city at the moment."