McAleese, Kenny attend removal


The remains of former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald were removed from the Mansion House to the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook last night ahead of his State Funeral today.

President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the service and expressed condolences to Dr FitzGerald's family immediately afterwards. Many hundreds were present for the short service, conducted by parish priest Fr Martin Clarke. Members of the public continued to file past the coffin until 10,30pm.

Senior members of the Judiciary, the Defence Forces, Garda Síochána, the Government and Opposition were in attendance, as were former president Mary Robinson and former Fine Gael taoiseach Liam Cosgrave.

The service was also attended by senior personnel from The Irish Times, where Dr FitzGerald had been a columnist since 1954.

The coffin carrying Dr FitzGerald's remains was draped in the Tricolour and carried into the Church by a military guard of honour.

The chief mourners were his three children: Mary, John and Mark; his ten grandchildren; his great grandson; his daughters-in-law Eithne and Derval; and son-in-law Vincent.

In the course of the service, Fr Clarke said that the congregation had gathered "to pay tribute to an extraordinary Irishman: someone who enriched so many lives; some one who has enriched the life this country".

Fr Clarke described a week of great contrast in public life in Ireland.

"This past week has been an extraordinary week for our country: a week in which we have experienced great joy and celebration on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland.

"It's been a week of sorrow because of the loss of Garret FitzGerald.

"The Queen's visit really was a resounding success. She was made really welcome by the vast majority of our people. It marked a watershed in Anglo-Irish relations. One of the great high points was in Dublin Castle and those wonderful speeches of our President Mary McAleese and the wonderful speech of Queen Elizabeth.

"Within hours of that landmark occasion in Dublin Castle, Garret FitzGerald was called by God to himself."

He continued: "As many commentators have observed there was a certain significance in that because Garret's commitment to peacemaking and all he ached in political office particularly around the Anglo-Irish agreement that made the Good Friday Agreement possible and laid the foundations for the wonderful peace we how enjoy on this island.

Garret FitzGerald was passionate in his commitment to peace."

Fr Clarke said there was a gentleness in all that Dr FitzGerald said and did. "Gentleness, far from being a sign of weakness, is rather a sign of strength. It takes a strong person to be gentle."

He also said that Dr FitzGerald's family had been keeping a vigil at his bedside in hospital in recent weeks, showing care, love and compassion.

"Your loss is very public but your grief is intensely private," he said.

Fr Clarke also remembered Dr Fitzgerald's wife Joan who predeceased him, as a woman to whom he was devoted.

He concluded by describing the former taoiseach, Fine Gael leader, economist, statesman and Irish Times columnist as "somebody who has touched and enriched our lives in so many ways and enriched the life of our country."

At the conclusion of the service, President McAleese and Mr Kenny offered their condolences to the FitzGerald family. Hundreds of mourners who had packed the Church to capacity then queued to express sympathy with the family.