Garret FitzGerald buried following State funeral

 

Former taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald has been laid to rest beside his wife Joan at Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill, Co Dublin following a State funeral.

The Mass was held at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook where the chief celebrant was Dr Enda McDonagh, a close friend of Dr FitzGerald’s and former professor of moral theology at Maynooth.

Dr McDonagh said the occasion was not an easy one and that it was impossible to think of Garret and not think of his great loves; his wife Joan, his children and grandchildren.

Dr Fitzgerald's dominating characteristic was love, Dr McDonagh told the large congregation.

He had come to the fore in politics at a time when Irish politics was notoriously suspicious of intellectuals and do-gooders. But Dr FitzGerald's commitment to public service had put him beyond these criticisms.

Dr McDonagh revealed Dr Fitzgerald had seen Queen Elizabeth and President Mary McAleese on television on Tuesday night.

“By some miracle of insight ... he woke up in his final agony, in a way, to see the Queen and President on the television on Tuesday night, 36 hours before he died,” Fr McDonagh said. “It was the culmination of what he had, for so long, strove.We are grateful for that.”

Fr McDonagh described Dr FitzGerald as a towering intellect and committed public servant, but also a gregarious, loving family man, who, humorously, was a fussy eater.

The cleric reminded mourners that it was while Mr FitzGerald was minister for foreign affairs in the 1970s that Irish Aid, the government’s assistance programme to developing countries, was established.

“He referred frequently to the obligations of the richer countries, including Ireland, to promote effectively a more equitable, just, and peaceful form of nations,” Fr McDonagh said.

Mr FitzGerald was also known for his hospitality and love of parties, Fr McDonagh said, but he was “pernickety” about his food. “Mushy peas were always high on the menu,” he quipped.

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.

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.

In a thanksgiving which ran through virtually all the organs of the state, he said his father had worked for a pluralist and peaceful Ireland.

He added: “You don’t need me to tell you he was different. He was fun, he was funny.

“On Easter Sunday he told some of the younger granddaughters when they asked him why their grandmother Joan had a fear of flying that it possibly had something to do with the fact that he used to read her the near miss reports (from Aer Lingus) in bed.

“He built sandcastles, made wonderful pancakes and has been the only person allowed on a Ryanair flight without photo identification.”

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 who lived near him all their life, said the family had been overwhelmed and overpowered by the support they had received since his death.

“We want to thank our beloved father himself for his love and compassion,” she said, holding back tears.

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

Flowers from the gardens of Garret’s three children were brought to the altar as gifts, along with a copy of his autobiography Just Garret and a copy of Studies, the quarterly review journal of the Jesuits to which Mr FitzGerald regularly contributed.

Dr Fitzgerald's family were involved in the ceremony. His three children, Mary, Mark and John, thanked mourners from the altar. His ten grandchildren sang, took part in the offertory procession and four of them; Garret, Doireann, Aoife and Ciara delivered prayers of the faithful.

Grandchildren Reachbha and Laoise sang throughout the service, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny did a reading and former president Mary Robinson was among those who recited the Prayers of the Faithful.

Concluding, Dr McDonagh said: "We entrust him to Joan and the Lord". Dr FitzGerald was predeceased by his wife, Joan.

Five former Taoisigh; Liam Cosgrave, Albert Reynolds, John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, were joined by Northern Ireland First Minister Martin McGuinness, former SDLP leader John Hume and Britain’s ambassador to Ireland Julian King in mourning Dr FitzGerald.

His coffin was draped in the Tricolour with a bible and cross resting on top.

As his coffin was brought from the church draped in the tricolour by Military Police, the crowd burst into spontaneous applause.

His coffin was escorted by 18 army motorcycle outriders to Shanganagh Cemetery, where he was buried alongside his beloved late wife Joan, who died in 1999, with a 106-strong guard of honour.

Additional reporting: PA