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Ireland wakes to the news of Garret FitzGerald's death - the political world reacts

A “renaissance man”, a “towering intellect” and “a shining model of citizenship”. Just some of the tributes pouring in for the seventh Taoiseach of Ireland Garret Fitzgerald, who passed away during the night.

Former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald at the Dublin North count for Election 2011 just three months ago
Former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald at the Dublin North count for Election 2011 just three months ago
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 13.45pm

TRIBUTES TO FORMER Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald are flooding in today in the wake of the news of his passing.

Described variously this morning as a “gentleman”,  “a man of huge integrity” and someone who “valued high standards above everything else”, the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that Dr. FitzGerald had a “towering intellect” and a “passionate devotion to public Ireland”. Mr Kenny said:

If there is a consolation, it is that his leave-taking was as gentle in his life and the way he lived it.

The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has paid tribute to Dr. FitzGerald in the Dáil today, saying that he was a “shining model of citizenship”. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said “when he agreed with other parties, he was supportive and helpful” and that “he recognised that no group or individual had a monopoly of wisdom”.

President Mary McAleese has said she is deeply saddened by this morning’s news, calling FitzGerald a “renaissance man of our time”. President Mc Aleese said he was a “national treasure” and a “true public servant”.

The Queen has also offered her condolences today, calling Dr. FitzGerald a true statesman.

A statement issued by John Gormley and the Green Party said that that Garret FitzGerald will be remembered as a “modernising Taoiseach” whose “constitutional crusades laid the foundation for a more pluralist and accommodating republic”. Gormley said that as a former constituency colleague of FitzGerald he remembers a man who “enjoyed the cut and thrust of politics”.

Former Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael John Bruton has said that Garret FitzGerald’s death is very sad, both for him and for the country. Bruton said that he frequently turned to FitzGerald for advice right up until his death, and that he was always very objective and very kind.

There was much regret expressed last night that Garret FitzGerald was not well enough to attend the state dinner held in honour of the Queen at Dublin castle, considering the contribution he made to the peace process. Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who was a guest at last night’s event has told Newstalk:

He was always a man who wanted to see it happen and I’m glad that it happened in his day. He would have been there last night had he been free to go. Everybody would have loved to see him.

The Tánaiste said that his absence from Dublin Castle last night was “palpable”:

For it was he, more more that any other, who was the intellectual and political father of the road that we have travelled together.

Michael Mc Dowell, former head of the Progressive Democrats says that FitzGerald’s legacy lies in the fact that he started the peace process that “came to a high point last night in Dublin Castle”. McDowell says that he tried to put Irish-British relations on a new plain. He’s told Newstalk that the former Taoiseach was:

So high in the standards that he set for himself. He was so upright in things like expenses and was keen to ensure that every cent was accounted for.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that Garret FitzGerald made an enormous contribution to Irish politics and that he “served the Irish people with great intelligence, decency and commitment in a lifetime devoted to public service”. Martin says:

Though my party did not necessarily agree with Garret on every political issue, I greatly admired his integrity, his abilities and his unfailing politeness and courtesy.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has also extended his sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Dr. FitzGerald, while Labour Minister Ruairi Quinn has expressed sadness at the death of his friend and says that his “passing during the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II this week is particularly poignant given his crucial role in building these relationships”.

Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton said that FitzGerald inspired her from an early age, and called him:

A true and inspirational statesman, a true political leader and someone I was very proud to know and call a friend.

Garret FitzGerald’s family has issued a statement thanking staff at the Mater Hospital, and calling him a much loved and adored father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

It’s expected that details of a state funeral will be announced later.

Read: Former Taoiseach Dr. Garret FitzGerald passes away at the age of 85>

Read: “Gentleman”, “statesman” and “servant” all trending” – Twitter tributes to Garret Fitzgerald >

Read: Queen Elizabeth offers condolences on the death of Dr Garret FitzGerald >

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Emer McLysaght

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