Thousands pay respect to Garret 'top of the pile' of leaders
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
A STEADY stream of people from across the country queued to pay their respects to Garret FitzGerald, despite showers of rain falling throughout the day.
Up to 20,000 filed past the open coffin of the former Taoiseach as his body lay in repose in the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday.
The oak coffin was positioned in the centre of the Oak Room, surrounded by the family crests of each of the Lord Mayors of Dublin which hang on the wall.
Dr FitzGerald lay in a grey suit, light shirt and bright pink tie.
Peggy McNamara travelled up from Rhebogue in Limerick to pay her respects at the Mansion House.
She said she was going home and coming back again for the funeral because he was "top of the pile" of Irish leaders.
"He was the greatest Irishman ever in this country. But he was somebody you could speak to easily when you met him," she said.
Gerald Hayden, from Old Bawn in Tallaght, said there was "no self-importance and no ego" about Dr FitzGerald.
"He was a real public servant in the true sense of the word. He was not in it for anything but the public good," he said.
Pat Gallagher, from Dungloe, who drove Dr FitzGerald around Donegal during two by-elections in the early 1980s, recalled conversations about the former Taoiseach's dealings with Margaret Thatcher.
"He was a pleasure to be with," he said.
Michael McCabe, from Blackrock in Dublin, said he always classified Dr FitzGerald "as a statesman".
Pat Cleary, from Monas-terevin in Co Kildare, recalled the Fine Gael heyday of the 1980s.
"From the time Garret left until quite recently, it fell apart," he claimed.
Former Fine Gael TD Michael Finucane said his appeal went beyond one party.
"He was extremely popular through all the political parties. There was tremendous respect for him throughout the Dail," he said.
Among those to file past the coffin were Ministers Joan Burton; James Reilly; Lucinda Creighton; Brian Hayes, with his wife Genevieve, and their children; former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and his wife Kathleen; Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and US Ambassador Dan Rooney.
Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen said he was honoured that the FitzGerald family accepted his offer of the use of the Mansion House.
"It's a fitting location to pay tribute to a man who has performed such a service for the State," he said.
Dr FitzGerald's body was removed to the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook with a military escort from the 2nd Cavalry Squadron.
Followed by his three children, Mark, John and Mary, the coffin was carried into the church draped in a tricolour and carried by six members of the Defence Forces.
President Mary McAleese and Dr Martin McAleese offered their condolences to the family, as did Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.
Also present were Cabinet Ministers Michael Noonan, Jimmy Deenihan, Alan Shatter, Joan Burton and Frances Fitzgerald.
The congregation included Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and party foreign affairs spokesman Sean O Fearghail; former minister Ivan Yates; Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews; Senators Marie-Louise O'Donnell; Ned O'Sullivan and Averil Power; Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan; former governor John Hurley and RTE broadcasters Sean O'Rourke and Marian Finucane.
Donnybrook parish priest, Fr Martin Clarke, said Dr FitzGerald was reunited with his beloved wife, Joan.
He said the past week had been "extraordinary for the country" with the visit of the queen "but a week of sorrow because of the loss of Garret FitzGerald".
"Within hours of that landmark occasion in Dublin Castle, Garret FitzGerald was called by God to himself," he said.
Fr Clarke said there was a sense of sadness as many people were losing a mentor and there was, rightly, saturation coverage of Dr FitzGerald's life and work.
"Unlike Garret himself, perhaps we are beginning to run out of words -- something that would never happen to him," he joked.