'Garret the Good' to lie in state

Members of the public will pay their final respects to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald today as he lies in state ahead of tomorrow’s funeral.

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

His remains will be in Dublin’s Mansion House and members of the public will be able to file past the coffin and sign a book of condolence.

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

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

The full state funeral will take place at 2.30pm tomorrow afternoon for the politician, journalist and economist, who led two governments in the 1980s.

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

Other books of condolence have been opened in Cork City Hall and elsewhere.

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

Mrs McAleese described him 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 but joined airline Aer Lingus before moving on to economic 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 Fáil in 1977, Mr FitzGerald was the natural successor to lead and in the years that followed, he ripped the comfortable conservative party apart to encourage younger and more liberal elements 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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