Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald is laid to rest after State funeral

FORMER TAOISEACH Garret FitzGerald, one of the greatest politicians in the State’s history, was laid to rest at Shanganagh Cemetery…

FORMER TAOISEACH Garret FitzGerald, one of the greatest politicians in the State’s history, was laid to rest at Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill in Co Dublin yesterday after a State funeral.

The church was unable to accommodate all the mourners and hundreds braved persistent downpours to watch the simple, dignified service outside on a large screen. An estimated 20,000 people paid their respects to Dr FitzGerald on Saturday when he reposed in the Mansion House.

The chief celebrant at the requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook was theologian Fr Enda McDonagh, a long-time friend.

He told the congregation that Dr FitzGerald’s dominating characteristic was love. It was impossible to think of Garret and not think of his great loves; his wife Joan, his children and grandchildren.


Turning to Dr FitzGerald’s political career he said: “Politicians, some, and Irish voters, perhaps many, were notoriously suspicious of intellectuals and, in a different fashion, of do-gooders, both these in themselves honourable titles were used in a mocking, put-down way by Garret’s critics.

“However, his commitment to loving and truthful public service took him way beyond these criticisms to the office of taoiseach, the achievement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that forerunner of the foundation of the Good Friday Agreement and that peace process whose culmination we have been celebrating in the very days of Garret’s last agony and the final surrender of his historical life, devoted as it was to Irish citizens north and south, as well as to family and friends.”

At the end of the Mass, Dr FitzGerald’s three children took the opportunity to thank those who had been involved in their father’s life at different stages.

His son Mark said his father’s love of numbers and statistics stayed with him right to the end. “Like when he asked for the latest exchequer figures when dealing with respiratory failure,” he said.

His other son, John, an economist with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), drew laughter from the congregation as he thanked staff at the Central Statistics Office for persevering with his father’s requests for information.

“For over half a century you have enthralled our father and provided much to stimulate him. He was your biggest fan and he probably drove you mad,” he said.

His daughter Mary, an artist, said the family had been overwhelmed and overpowered by the support they had received since his death.

“For showing us how to be a good citizen, a good parent and a good father. Thank you.”

Flowers from the gardens of Dr FitzGerald's three children were brought to the altar as gifts, along with his autobiography All in a Lifeand a copy of Studies, the quarterly review journal of the Jesuits to which he contributed regularly.

Dr FitzGerald’s 10 grandchildren sang, took part in the offertory procession and four of them – Garret, Doireann, Aoife and Ciara – delivered prayers of the faithful while Reachbha and Laoise sang throughout the service.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave the first reading and former president Mary Robinson and former minister Peter Barry were among those who recited the Prayers of the Faithful.

All of the Cabinet and many members of the Dáil and Seanad were among the congregation as was most of the judiciary.

Five former taoisigh – Liam Cosgrave, Albert Reynolds, John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen – were joined by Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former SDLP leader John Hume and Britain’s ambassador to Ireland Julian King in attending the funeral.

Dr FitzGerald’s coffin was draped in the Tricolour with a bible and cross resting on top.

As it was brought from the church, the crowd outside burst into spontaneous applause.

The coffin was escorted by 18 army motorcycle outriders to Shanganagh Cemetery.

At the graveside, there was little of the pomp normally associated with State funerals – no graveside oration and no 21-gun salute. The Last Post and Reveillewere sounded as Dr FitzGerald was buried alongside his beloved late wife Joan.