Review of Albert Reynolds: Risktaker for Peace by Conor Lenihan (Merrion Press, £19.99) Albert Reynolds was Taoiseach from February 1992 to December 1994. During that short period in office, in which he headed two uncomfortable coalitions, he played a major role in the Irish peace process. He was a co-signatory with Britain’s prime minister, John Major, of the 1993 Downing Street Declaration, which affirmed the right of the people in the Six Counties to determine their future. It stated that the United Kingdom would agree to the reunification of Ireland if a majority in the north favoured it. This was a giant step forward at the time and, seen in retrospect, it was a transformative moment, putting politics at the forefront of the conflict: the force of argument would replace the force of arms. Of course, it took time. Five years was to pass before the Good Friday Agreement cemented in place the principle of consent. By then, Reynolds had left the Dáil. Yet his contribution to peace undoubtedly remains his greatest legacy. What I could never understand was what moved Reynolds, who had never previously betrayed much, if any, interest in the north, to make it his foremost interest once he became Taoiseach. Supposedly, he did so because he thought the end to violence would prove good for business in both the north and south. It’s hard to buy that as his sole motivation, but Conor Lenihan, the author of this “first complete biography” of Reynolds, is unable to offer a better reason. It is an example of the book’s overall failing. It does not begin to tell us what made Albert tick beyond his abiding love for business. Then again, perhaps that says it all. He saw everything through a commercial prism. He joined Fianna Fáil without a political background and without a political vision. But, having embraced the party, he certainly exhibited a great deal of political ambition. The outline of his story is simple enough. Born in Roscommon, the youngest of four children, his father ran various small businesses, including a farm and a dancehall. His mother, a powerful influence in his younger years, was convinced he had academic ability and sent him off to boarding school, later expecting him to go into banking.