Public to say final farewell to true statesman

MEMBERS of the public will be allowed to pay their final respects to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald who was last night remembered as an outstanding statesman who made a lasting contribution to peace and placed Ireland at the heart of Europe.

He passed away early yesterday, just hours after a historic speech by Queen Elizabeth II in Dublin Castle — something made possible by one of his greatest achievements, the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he believed the spirit of Dr FitzGerald was “happy in the knowledge that he contributed greatly to the progress of Ireland, not just in the healing of the past but in setting out a substantial platform for the future”.

Known to colleagues as “Garret the Good”, the 85-year-old had been undergoing treatment in the Mater private hospital over the last few weeks.

He will lay in repose in the Oak Room of Dublin’s Mansion House tomorrow, with members of the public admitted to file past the coffin from 11am to 7pm.

A book of condolences will be made available and flags will remain at half-mast at Government Buildings until Monday.

A state funeral will be held on Sunday in the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook before he is laid to rest in Shanganagh cemetery alongside his wife Joan, with whom he had a famously close relationship up until her passing away in 1999.

President Mary McAleese led the tributes that poured in from not only politicians but from a broad range of organisations and interest groups, both nationally and internationally.

Already an established economist, Dr FitzGerald topped the poll in his first election to the Dáil as a Fine Gael TD in 1969.

He served as taoiseach from July 1981 to February 1982 and from December 1982 to June 1987.

He negotiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, which was described last night by President McAleese as one of his crowning achievements.

The President described Dr FitzGerald as “the Renaissance man of our time” and a national treasure. “Steeped in the history of the state, he constantly strove to make Ireland a better place for all its people,” said Mrs McAleese.

Dr FitzGerald wrote his last newspaper column about the visit of the Queen. As she continued her visit to Ireland, the monarch offered her personal sympathies, describing Dr FitzGerald as a true statesman.

“He made a lasting contribution to peace and will be greatly missed,” she said.

He is survived by his sons, John and Mark, and his daughter, Mary, who said he was a “much loved and adored father, grandfather and great-grandfather and will be sadly missed by his extended family”.

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