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All walks of life turn out to say their goodbyes

THEY came in their hundreds -- the great and the good, the leaders of church and State, and colleagues and friends -- to celebrate the life of Garret FitzGerald.

Just three months before his death, the former Taoiseach requested that his funeral would be held in the Church of the Sacred Heart in his former parish of Donnybrook.

Yesterday, that church was filled to overflowing as mourners, led by President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, joined Dr FitzGerald's family for his funeral Mass.

Many queued patiently to make their way inside while hundreds more gathered outside to watch the service on giant screens.

Chief celebrant Fr Enda McDonagh was joined by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin to welcome mourners.

Every government minister, five former Taoisigh -- among them Liam Cosgrave -- up to 20 judges and scores of politicians from across the political divide and across the Border, turned out to say their farewells.

Such was the widespread affection in which Dr FitzGerald was held that even local authority chairmen from around the country, replete with their chains of office, were there to pay their respects.

There, too, was Sean Haughey, whose late father and former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was one of Dr FitzGerald's arch-political rivals.

Mourners began to arrive more than a hour before the service began, among them poet and Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney.

Dr FitzGerald's struggle to bring about an end to the Troubles in the North were reflected in the number of public figures who travelled to his funeral.

They included one of the architects of the peace process, Nobel Prize-winner John Hume. Also there was the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and key political figures included Alliance Party leader David Ford, and the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell, Brid Rodgers, Austin Curry and Mark Durkan.


Former Labour leader Dick Spring, who served as Dr FitzGerald's Tanaiste was also among the mourners as was former Fine Gael Tanaiste and minister Peter Barry.

Current Anglo Irish Bank chairman and former Fine Gael leader, Alan Dukes, was among the many current and former Fine Gael TDs and ministers who attended.

Liam Cosgrave, who handed over the reins of power in Fine Gael to Dr FitzGerald in 1977, led a group of five former Taoisigh who came to pay their respects. Also there were John Bruton and former Fianna Fail Taoisigh Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds.

Yesterday's gathering also included some of the country's most senior judges, led by Chief Justice John Murray and the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kerns.

Irish Independent