Thousands pay respects to ex-taoiseach Dr FitzGerald

Sat, May 21, 2011, 01:00

The removal has taken place of former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald to the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook, Dublin for a funeral service.

Members of the public can file past the coffin and offer condolences to the family until 10.30pm. Dr FitzGerald’s family were joined at the removal by President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, members of the Cabinet and judicary.

Earlier, thousands of people signed books of condolence in the Oak Room and under an open-air canopy outside the Mansion House on Dublin's Dawson Street.

Among the mourners were former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, former EU commissioner and attorney general Peter Sutherland and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lucinda Creighton.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said Dr FitzGerald's family could be tremendously proud of his life in politics and the enormous contribution he made.

"The number of people here today is a marked tribute to the fact he was such a positive force in politics. I'm sad about his passing but he was a great Irishman and a champion of women being involved in politics," she said.

Pat Benson, who travelled from Sligo to pay his respects, described the late taoiseach as a "very good, decent, honourable man and an insightful politician with no self-interest".

Prof Hannah McGee, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), said she had come to the Mansion House for personal and professional reasons.

“He was chancellor of the NUI and conferred degrees on thousands of our students. On a personal level, my godfather Aidan McGee, who is 85 - the same age as Dr FitzGerald, was a great fan of his an asked me to sign the condolence book”.

Mark Buckley from Bray said "I've been a fan of Garret since the early 1980s, especially his constitutional crusade. He brought us in to the 21st century".

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said the success of the Queen's recent visit to Ireland was built on the foundations that Dr FitzGerald laid with the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

"I wasn't interested in politics when he was a politician, but I would have been a supporter of his," he said.

President McAleese and Dr Martin McAleese will be among the mourners at the State funeral tomorrow. All members of the Oireachtas have been invited. They will be led by Taoiseach and other members of the Government.

The judiciary will also be present in large numbers, as well as members of the Council of State, the body of presidential advisers which included Dr FitzGerald among its members, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

The burial will take place at Shanganagh Cemetery, Old Bray Road, Shankill, Co Dublin. The funeral cortege is expected to arrive at about 4.30pm.

It is understood that there will be no graveside oration. Flags are being flown at half-mast on all Government Buildings until after the funeral.

Although it is officially a State funeral, it will also be very much a family occasion. There will be minimal military trappings and the traditional volley of shots will not be fired over the grave.

Nor will there be the standard 100-member military marching body.

However, there will be military pallbearers and a piper. An Army motorcycle cavalcade will accompany the hearse to the church and the graveyard.

In the graveyard, an honour guard of soldiers with reversed arms will line the route from the gate of the cemetery to the graveside with their heads bowed.

At about 3:45pm the funeral cortege will proceed to Shanganagh Cemetery where Dr FitzGerald will be laid to rest alongside his wife Joan.

The President and Dr McAleese will also attend tonight’s removal service with senior Government figures, judges from the Supreme Court and the High Court as well as other dignitaries.

Tomorrow’s Mass will be attended by judges from the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court. An online book of condolence has been opened at