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Former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds waves as he arrives at Stormont's Parliament Buildings in Belfast, northern Ireland May 8, 2007. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez(reuters_tickers)
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, who played a key role in advancing talks towards brokering peace in Northern Ireland, died on Thursday. He was 81.
Reynolds served as prime minister from 1992 to 1994, a period in which he and then British premier John Major signed the Downing Street Declaration, a landmark agreement in the eventual ending of three decades of sectarian bloodshed.
Months after the 1993 deal - which affirmed the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination - the Irish Republican Army (IRA) called a ceasefire. A peace agreement followed in 1998, mostly ending the violence between Irish Catholic nationalists and mostly Protestant pro-British loyalists.
Reynolds died after a long illness, his Fianna Fail party said.
"What he brought to the process was a straight-forwardness. The ability to act when it matters is what stands out," Gerry Adams, leader of the nationalist Sinn Fein party and a key figure in the peace talks, told national broadcaster RTE.
"The British government were very reluctant participants in the peace process at that time, so were many elements of the Irish establishment. It's probably only possible when Albert Reynolds came in as a bit of an outsider, that he was able to turn some of that around."
Reynolds, who served as finance minister during the 1980s, led two short coalition governments before resigning as party leader and prime minister in 1994 following a dispute with his junior partner in government.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra)