McAleese to join Fitzgerald mourners

McAleese to join Fitzgerald mourners

President Mary McAleese will join mourners at today’s funeral for former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald.

Mary McAleese led tributes which poured in from international leaders and past colleagues from the worlds of politics, business and entertainment following the death of the former Fine Gael leader, who died aged 85 after a short illness.

The state funeral for the politician, journalist and economist who led two governments in the 1980s will take place at 2.30pm at the Sacred Heart Church in south Dublin. Also present will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

His body lay in state in Dublin’s Mansion House and a constant stream of people filed past the open coffin and signed books of condolence. Among those present were US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney.

As well as condolence books there was a photograph of the late taoiseach.

Mr FitzGerald, who helped negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement which instituted closer ties between Britain and Ireland, died just hours after the Queen made an historic reconciliation speech in Dublin Castle, made possible by the 1985 accord.

President McAleese, the Queen and Mr Kenny led tributes.

All members of the legislature have been invited to today’s funeral and members of the judiciary will be there in large numbers.

Mr FitzGerald’s body lay in repose in the Oak Room of the Mansion House between 11am and 7pm yesterday. It was then taken to Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook, south Dublin, where people were allowed to pay their respects last night before.

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

He 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 were flying 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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