Body of Fitzgerald lies in state

Body of Fitzgerald lies in state

Members of the public started paying their final respects to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald today as he lies in state before tomorrow’s funeral.

The former Fine Gael leader, 85, died on Thursday after a short illness.

His remains are in Dublin’s Mansion House and members of the public are filing past the coffin and signing a book of condolence.

Mr FitzGerald, who helped negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement, died just hours after the Queen made a historic reconciliation speech in Dublin Castle, made possible by the 1985 accord.

President Mary McAleese and the Queen led tributes which poured in from international leaders.

The state funeral is at 2.30pm tomorrow for the politician, journalist and economist who led two governments in the 1980s.

Mrs McAleese and Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be among the mourners. All members of the legislature have been invited and members of the judiciary will be there in large numbers.

Mr FitzGerald’s body lies in repose in the Oak Room of the Mansion House between 11am and 7pm today. His remains will then be taken to Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook, south Dublin, where people will again be allowed to pay their respects before the funeral.

Other books of condolence have been opened in Cork and other cities.

The former taoiseach will be buried alongside his wife Joan, who died in 1999, at Shanganagh cemetery in Shankill.

Mrs McAleese described Mr FitzGerald as the Renaissance man of our time and a national treasure.

Flags will fly at half mast on all government buildings until after the funeral.

Referred to as “Garret the Good” by colleagues and opponents alike, his death was announced in a short family statement from his children John, Mark and Mary. He had been undergoing treatment in the Mater private hospital over the last few weeks.

Before entering politics, Mr FitzGerald established himself as one of Ireland’s best-known economists. Although qualified as a barrister he never practised law. He joined airline Aer Lingus before moving on to economics lecturing, consultancy and journalism. He was the Irish correspondent for many British and international newspapers.

He entered the Dáil as TD for Dublin South East in 1969, among a clutch of intellectuals with a mission to modernise the economy and liberalise society. When a Fine Gael-Labour coalition came to power in 1973, Mr FitzGerald was appointed minister for foreign affairs. He was an enormous success, liked, respected and admired throughout the chancelleries of the world.

When his party was crushed by Fianna Fail in 1977, Mr FitzGerald was natural successor to lead and, in the years which followed, he ripped the comfortable conservative party apart to encourage younger and more liberal people to join the party.

In the 1981 election he became taoiseach with the support of Labour and independents in a minority government. Critics hit out at his intellectualism while cartoonists pictured him as something between a whizz-kid and an absent-minded professor.

In 1982, he lost control of government but later that year formed another coalition ushering in one of the most tumultuous months in Irish politics, characterised best by the polar opposite approaches of Mr FitzGerald and his nemesis, late taoiseach Charles Haughey.

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