Integrity was hallmark of Liam Cosgrave’s life, mourners told

Politician turned down a State funeral and requested ‘no speeches, no nonsense’, mourners told


Integrity was the hallmark of Liam Cosgrave’s private and professional life, mourners were told at the former taoiseach’s funeral Mass on Saturday.

“He loved his family and his country,’’ chief celebrant Monsignor John Wilson, a personal friend for over 50 years, added.

Mr Cosgrave died last week aged 97 years.

He had turned down a State funeral and requested a simple funeral Mass at his local church, the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham, Dublin, where he worshipped for over 80 years.

He attended daily Mass there up to three months ago, sitting unobtrusively at the rear of the church. Neighbours recalled the friendly greeting from the humble elder statesman as he blessed himself with holy water from the stone font dating back to penal times.

Monsignor Wilson said Mr Cosgrave had said to him he wanted “no speeches, no nonsense”.

He spoke of Mr Cosgrave’s strong Catholic faith and his love of Rome. He said they were friends since 1965, having met through a shared interest in hunting. “We caught no mongrel foxes,” said Monsignor Wilson, to laughter from the congregation, in a reference to a controversial speech made by Mr Cosgrave about his political rivals when he was Fine Gael leader.

He referred to the former taoiseach’s humility, never seeking preferential treatment whether at home in Ireland or in Rome.

“Liam left our country a better place as a result of his life and his life’s work,’’ he added. The Fine Gael politician was taoiseach from 1973-77.

He said his old friend was “a patriot in the best best sense of that term’’.

Mr Cosgrave’s son, Liam jnr, said his father disliked eulogies. “So I won’t upset him or you,’’ he added, to laughter from the congregation.

He thanked those who had cared for him, referred to his father’s admiration for An Garda Síochána and the Army, to his long life and how his family would miss him. His remarks were greeted with sustained and loud applause from the congregation.

A tricolour in the church grounds flew at half-mast as a large crowd gathered for the funeral service.

Ten military policemen carried the late taoiseach’s coffin from the hearse to the church and, at Mr Cosgrave’s request, it was not draped in the tricolour.

Also at his request, there were no hymns, while organist Marie Cruise played some solemn music.

Among the several priests present were his local parish priest, Father Martin Cosgrove. Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin delivered the final commendation.

The readings were by the late taoiseach’s daughter, Mary, and his son, Ciarán.

To the strains of Panus Angelicus, the coffin was shouldered from the church by family members to the hearse and his body was then taken for burial in the family plot in Goldenbridge Cemetery, Inchicore, where his father, William T Cosgrave, a key figure in the foundation of the Irish Free State, was buried in 1965 after a State funeral which included Mass at the same church.

When his son was told of the cost involved at the time, he insisted the family pay for it.

The former taoiseach’s wife, Vera, who predeceased him, is also buried there.

His funeral cortege was met in Goldenbridge by the Army Number 1 band ,and Caoineadh´, a traditional Irish air, arranged by Lt Col Brendan Power, former director of the Defence Forces School of Music, was performed.

Buglers and a drummer from the Band of 2 Brigade performed The Last Post and Reveille following the burial ceremony.

An 18-member firing party fired a three-volley salvo.

The chief mourners were Mr Cosgrave’s sons Liam and Ciarán, daughter Mary, and extended family.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among the dignitaries at the Mass as were former taoisigh Enda Kenny, John Bruton, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern.

President Michael D Higgins, who is abroad, was represented by his aide-de-camp Col Michael Kiernan.

The three surviving members of the cabinet he led in the 1970s, Richie Ryan, Paddy Cooney and Tom O’Donnell, also attended. Members of the current Cabinet were present, as were ormer Fine Gael leaders and ministers, Michael Noonan and Alan Dukes.

There, too, were Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and several members of the Cabinet were present, including Ministers Simon Harris, Eoghan Murphy, Simon Coveney, Richard Bruton, Denis Naughten, Regina Doherty, Charles Flanagan, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, as well as Ministers of State Paul Kehoe, Pat Breen, Catherine Byrne, Sean Kyne and Chief Whip Joe McHugh.

Others present included EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál MacDonncha, Fine Gael MEPs Brian Hayes, Mairead McGuinness and Deirdre Clune, Fine Gael TDs Kate O’Connell, Sean Barrett, Maria Bailey, Kieran O’Donnell and Pat Deering, Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey, Independent TD Michael Lowry, Fine Gael Senators Paul Coghlan and Neale Richmond, former ministers Jimmy Deenihan, James Reilly, Fine Gael, Gerry Collins and Martin Mansergh, Fianna Fáil, Joan Burton and Barry Desmond, Labour.

Former leaders of the now defunct Progressive Democrats, Des O’Malley and Mary Harney, former senator, Seamus Mallon, of the SDLP, former EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy were there.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke was among the representatives of the judiciary, while Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo was among the representatives of the Diplomatic Corps.

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellet was also present, as was Irish Times columnist and author of The Cosgrave Legacy , Stephen Collins.