Mourners pay respects to Fitzgerald

Members of the public queued today to pay their final respects to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald as he lay in state ahead of his funeral tomorrow.

Members of the public queued today to pay their final respects to former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald as he lay in state ahead of his funeral tomorrow.

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

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 was a photograph of the late Taoiseach. Among those present was Health Minister James Reilly.

“I think FitzGerald was iconic in Irish politics. It’s certainly poignant that he would pass away this week on the Queen’s visit," Reilly said.

“It was he who set the foundation stone for that visit in the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, and I think his quest for a just society which stretched beyond south of the border into trying to bring inclusivity in the north as well, and a respect for both traditions, is something that will stand in history for a long, long time to come.

“I think his values and principles live on very strongly in the current government in particular – principles of justice and fairness and more openness in society and more acceptance, more inclusiveness and those are all values that I know Enda Kenny shares, that I share and our partners in government share.”

Mr FitzGerald, who helped negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement, died just hours after the Queen made an 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 for the politician, journalist and economist who led two governments in the 1980s will take place at 2.30pm tomorrow.

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 lay in repose in the Oak Room of the Mansion House between 11am and 7pm today. It was then being taken to Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook, south Dublin, where people were 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 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 Fáil 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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