Fr. Alec Reid – An Alternative View Of The Clonard Priest

The death of Alec Reid has brought with it the usual outpourings of inflated eulogies and unexamined claims about the life of the Redemptorist priest. Media, politicians, church and the Catholic faithful lined up to pay homage to the humanity of this great man while the presence of unionist politicians at his funeral was hailed as illustrative of the fruition of his peace work.

I hadn’t heard of Alec Reid before 2005 and news of his death evoked a different emotion in me. In January of that year my brother Robert was murdered by the IRA outside a Belfast bar, stabbed to death in the most cowardly way and the killing covered up using the full resources of the IRA and its leadership. Ordinarily the murder of a man such as Robert, a working class Catholic from a republican ghetto – Short Strand, the smallest and most vulnerable Catholic area in Belfast – who was killed by his own, would have warranted little attention. However various factors combined to make the fall out a little more extraordinary.

First, was the reaction of my family. We went public, naming the IRA as responsible and demanding his killers be brought to justice – as did the community. For them Robert’s murder could not be placed within an ‘excusable context’ i.e. punishment beating for drug dealing or some other charge, an attitude that indicated that people in Short Strand were fed up with the IRA’s thuggish treatment of them.

Second, his murder came on the heels of the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004 just before Robert’s murder. The cockiness of the IRA at a time when it was supposed to be moving towards decommissioning its weaponry, was a result of the destructive approach that both the British and Irish governments had adopted to IRA criminality for the previous decade. Both London and Dublin had decided to ‘turn a blind eye’ to IRA excesses on the grounds that the Provo leadership needed to reassure its grassroots that no sellout was planned; every now and then a robbery or a killing served to give that reassurance and both governments were complicit in the deceit.

But the robbery put the brakes on the infamous ‘peace process train’ and many commentators concluded that it could be years before there was any further movement. The fall out from Robert’s murder presented an opportunity to the establishment to start the train up again.

As a result the IRA/Sinn Fein came under pressure from the political establishment and our campaign was an instrumental cause of this. They, that is the Provisional leadership, viewed Robert‘s murder as an inconvenience and they were damned if they were going to allow it to lessen any leverage they held within the process.

The IRA leadership’s core objectives were: protecting the murderers, shutting the family up and maintaining control of the community.

Between January and October of that year we received three death threats, there were bomb warnings, and pickets were placed outside the house; eventually we had to move out of Short Strand where we had been born and bred. Essentially it was us against the might of the IRA.

The climax to the intimidation came in September. The community remained angry at Robert’s murder and this spilled over into an altercation with local IRA thugs. This signaled a loosening of the IRA’s grip. To bring the community back into line and steady the ‘green jackboot’ on the necks of the people Geoff Commander, a friend of Robert’s, was brutally attacked by up to eight men as he walked home alone one night.

Geoff refused to be bowed and reported the thugs to the police and charges were brought. Various interventions were made by groups and individuals on behalf of the IRA e.g. Community Restorative Justice (this organisation was closely affiliated to the Provos) to dissuade Geoff from proceeding with the case.

These overtures failed and Geoff and his wife Sinead remained steadfast in their determination to get justice. It was into this very intimidating and volatile situation that Fr. Alec Reid stepped. It would be natural to assume that given the circumstances this intervention would have been of a pastoral nature. Being devout Catholics both would have welcomed the support of a priest. But they were to be disappointed.

Alec Reid rang the Commander household and spoke with Sinead. He asked her to persuade Geoff to drop the charges against those charged. He didn’t give any specific reason as to why the men should not face justice; the fate of the peace process didn’t depend on it, the interest of ‘peace’ would not be served by it, the ‘greater good’ was not at stake.

There was no discernible reason given as to why Geoff should allow his brutal attackers escape justice, and not only that but allow the IRA to retain its grip on the community by increasing people’s fear of the consequences of reporting its crimes to the police. Alec Reid didn’t ask after the family. Sinead was flabbergasted at his request and told him: ‘Father my husband could have come home to me in a box, just like Robert McCartney’. He merely muffled acknowledgement of this but repeated his request for consideration of the matter.

This was how I came to know of Alec Reid. Alec Reid chose to stand with those responsible for the murder of an innocent man, the attackers of Geoff and the IRA in the intimidation and isolation of my family. By intervening on behalf of the IRA to have assault charges against Geoff’s IRA attackers dropped, Alec Reid intervened against the vulnerable, against right and against justice.

When I am asked what I think of Alec Reid my simple response is, ‘Provie priest’. In Belfast everyone knows what that means.


  1. Catherine has posted her honest opinion of Alec Reid,she will raise the hackles of provie groupies,but I doubt that will annoy Catherine,my personal opinion of Alec Reid is that he was either an agent of influence or an active agent for the brit establishment,but its just my opinion,the catholic church is still paying for Maynooth and some of their minions take to that task with a relish,others just prefer to screw everybody...

  2. Catherine,
    You were let down by so many people but you took it to the wire.

    I would say Fr Reid was acting for those who wanted the peace train and gravy train to run smooth.

    It was a despicable of butchery on an innocent man, but sadly at that stage the train and the big picture was the focus.

  3. I wouldnt trust any priest.Every last 1 of them knows about the abuse and the sex rings and keep quite.So to call any of them decent well ide have to side with catherine here.

  4. Catherine-

    " I hadn't heard of Alec Reid before 2005 "

    I don't think there are many people like Catherine who cant remember Fr Alec Reid praying over the two dead brit soldiers in 1988 after they were executed by the Provos-Fr Reid asked for mercy for those two brits-but none was given-
    Maybe Catherine had no interest in
    the war-as was her right-

  5. Catherine, you and your family's courage and integrity shine out like a beacon of light, in sharp contrast to the cowardly and shameful behaviour of so many others in this story; the Provos, their apologists and appeasers in the Roman Catholic Church and the British establishment.

    Robert's murder and the attack on Geoff can in no way be described as acts of war or politics. They were violent crimes, pure and simple, and society has a right to be protected from violent criminals. Sometimes it seems that the police are only concerned with paramilitary violence when it is directed at the state, with civilian casualties treated as 'internal housekeeping'.

    Please continue to speak out against injustice, you are an inspiration to so many of us who want to see a better future.

  6. Have to agree with Billy. Would not trust the Catholic church one once. Protected child molesters, connected to the Italian mafia, stole artifacts from all round the world and lie to people about god and all that. Though as an Atheist i would not trust any religious person in the world who clainmes to speak for an alimight god.
    wee bit drunk but happy new year folks.

  7. Dunno , sometimes I think people jump on band wagons. I personally know several priests and I trust them. I have asked a few for favours/help and they have went out of their way help me. The most recent was Aidan Troy, I had a bit of family stuff to sort out and he came good. In fact the first thing he said was "Frankie, do you need some money"..I assured him that was the last of my worries.. Another priest I would trust is this fella here. I've known Kieran since I was 12/13 yrs old , first as my scout leader before he was a priest (he was working for the Bank of Irieland then) and he's a good man.

    I take on board people being disgusted about the child abuse cover ups. How Catherine McCartney & her family were treated was wrong and neither inspire confidence within the catholic church. But putting all priests in the same boat is also wrong. The provisionals covered up sex abuse, does that mean that all provisionals were paedophiles or at best guilty by association?

    Level charges at the guilty but tarring everyone with the same brush is wrong.

    I am not religious at all today. I'm caught between two theories either mankind is a complete freak of nature or we are a genetic experiment...

    Catherine, I thought the catholic church should have stepped up to the mark and put it's teachings before politics...Sadly it wasn't that way.Maybe someone was 'leaning' on Fr Reid to get your family to drop charges. I am sorry for your loss.

  8. Frankie..The provies covered up sex abuse.true.But the ra werent all trained in 1 big house MANOOTH.All priests who pass through there know whats going on and by refusibg to speak out are as guilty.You mention father troy were still waiting on him to explain his role in a sex case.i wouldnt let 1 of them babysit thats for sure.

  9. Frankie,

    My take on how we got here is pretty simple, it doesnt really matter how we got here, we are here.

    Big bang, evolution, god, taxi, bus, bike, walking, running, Bobsleigh, we are here and we need to deal with the material physical fact of life.

    In relation to priests or any clergy to that matter, I really cannot remember meeting any that I automatically felt on my guard.

    I dont know, it must be the collar thing, same with scout leaders, I was not allowed to join the scouts given their dark history of abuse.

    Charlatans and witch doctors have been around since the beginning of so called "civilisation".

    By all accounts they have done very well with dealing with blind faith, hope, supernatural hocus pocus.

    I suppose it is a profession, like all professions. Now, I am sure there are clergy truely religious and blinded by faith, goodwill, and the spirit of christ and you know what, fair play to them, if it gets them through. Who am I to question anybody's logic only my own.

    I do know this, in relation to Alec Reid, when he asked the family to retract their statements on possible prosecutions, I found that totally rotten, rotten to the core.

    This priest was either being manipulated by the IRA, or freely consenting to it accordingly. By the way his praises are being song, it leads me to the conclusion, it was a two way thing.

    Eitherway, it just goes to show you the extent of the low lives, that would attempt to manipulate a bereaved family seeking justice via controlled manipulation of the religion, preying on peoples, faith, fear, guilt.

    Control by religion, it is the oldest trick in the book, fair play to the family.

    Michael henry,

    The only difference of Father Reid praying over the two british soldiers in casement park and a Muslem cleric preying over two suicide bombers is perception, something the S/F propaganda machine is a black belt in formulating within their own community, shaping opinion, idea's and value based systems in line with their manipulative leadership.

  10. Billy, anyone who covers up child abuse (or any abuse) is wrong. It doesn't matter one iota to me if they were all trained in one place or several. Be they priests, provisionals or school teachers. This is the second time you mentioned Fr Troy in a reply to myself. Again i'll give you the same answer contact him. This link will tell you how to. If you are ever in Paris take the metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile (top of the Champs Elysees) leave at exit 3, then walk down Ave Hoche (about 150yrds on the left hand side) and ask him yourself the questions you I can do. I can't speak for him and he has the answers to the questions you ask, not me.


    I agree....Finding out that Alec Reid asked the family to drop the charges (for what ever reason) was wrong. That wasn't his call no matter how big the picture is/was.

    So you weren't allowed to join the scouts because of their 'dark history'. But you were allowed to go to school where the same abuse took place...(maybe thats a bad anology but I hope you get the point). There are abusers in all walks of life, and again the scout leaders I came into contact with (like priests) never threatened me in any shape or form..

  11. Frankie,

    I get your point about the scouts,I only offer my opinion,but the difference is that going to school was mandatory and essential for personal and mental growth in whatever system you happen to grow up in.

    The only development acquired through voluntary institutions like organised religion and the scouts, is extra curricular conditioning in the form of reinforcing gender roles, non questionable authority, subservant ethos.

    I believe my parents were simply eliminating risk. They proved to be right, in the area I lived.

    I admit that is not universal in all area's, you have to admit, there does seem to be certain predatory types attracted the above.

    Everyone has the right to choose and you are right it could happen anywhere with anyone even people you trust. I also, think it is great that it simply cannot be brushed under the carpet or hidden the crimes committed against children, through fear, guilt, harm anymore.

    Father Reid, had not the right to ask the family, he had absolutely no right at all, he was as they say "an agent of influence".


    As a matter of interest do the catholic church still send envelopes to your house for parish collection, with your individual number and your name on it?

  12. James,
    I think they send envelopes to my parents and probably some of brothers & sisters...They are kinda god fearing catholics. I started to grow out of it in my late teens (although I remained an alter boy until I was 20!!!)..Personally I don't give any religion any of my money. They have more than enough (more than me any way)...As for my time in the scouts, I had a great time...

    Personally if I knew anyone who abused kids, I'd easily throw them into a room with a couple of hungry pitbulls and lock the door and sleep easy every night in the knowledge that there is one less danger on the street..or lock them up for 30yrs and feed them on bread and water during their time in prison...after they have done their time, take them out and shoot them at dawn..

    But getting back to the original topic, how the whole Robert Mc Cartney affair was handled and the intimidation metted out to the Mc Cartney family by the PRM/Catholic church & the PSNI/RUC was and still is wrong on every level..

    As for Fr Reid being an agent or whatever..I have no idea. But several months ago I came across this video on youtube (FF to 1min 30secs)..and according to the guy in the video Clonard was bugged (includes confessional boxes) by Mi5..If the video is true then the spooks didn't need to use Fr Reid as an agent but simply present him with fact (or what they knew about whom) and manipulated him..

  13. Frankie,

    maybe I have gone soft but the liberal in me could never agree to your proposed treatment for that type of prisoner. And the father in me says ... unless it happened to my own kids!

  14. Anthony, as for the pitbulls or locking child abusers up etc...maybe it's the father in me that makes me think that way. Take Liam Adams, he'll be free in 8yrs time or there abouts. It will cost the tax payer at least 300k to keep him behind bars. So Joe Public has to pay for his crime too. Maths don't add up for starters. Take them off the face of the earth.

  15. Frankie,

    I don't support capital punishment or behaving in a cruel manner to those society imprisons, regardless of what they are banged up for. And that includes Liam Adams. Not that I am any less susceptible to the emotions that you refer to. Just that when reason prevails in my mind, the liberal stance is the position I tend towards.

  16. I don't support capital punishment either outside of child abusers/rapists. Maybe by taking them of this rock by whatever means (humane or other) the gene wont be passed down.

  17. Frankie,

    the genetic is an argument that has long been considered worthy in some quarters as a means for dealing with what is categorised delinquincy.

    I don't agree with it.

  18. Frankie-

    " Take them of the face of the earth "-

    What you mean is that you want some-one else to kill / remove them-

    I am not having a go at you Frankie but some-times its easy to say things if it is not us doing the deed-even some people in prison for child abuse are innocent like every other crime-

  19. I never agreed with the killing of Robert McCartney and know it was to cover-up for the dirty-dealings of some within the Provisionals in Belfast. I hope the family achieve justice but sadly it will never bring their brother back. Regards Alec Reid and his 'request' a terrible to do to the Commanders but we shouldn't be surprised given the influence the Provies had a few years ago...That influence has seriously declined in recent times because their selfish antics have been exposed for what they truly are! And its thanks to the likes of Catherine and TPQ for regular exposes...