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'An inspirational man. . . if only more in politics were like him'

ONE voter's simple tribute to former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald put it best yesterday.

"An inspirational man. If only more in politics were like him. RIP," wrote Brenda Sheehan.

That was one of the messages left in the book of condolence in Dun Laoghaire's town hall in Dublin yesterday -- and there were many more left in Cork, Galway, Donegal and other locations around the country.

There will also be a book of condolences opened in the Mansion House where Dr FitzGerald's body will lie in repose today before his funeral tomorrow.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council specifically opened its book of condolence because Dr FitzGerald is due to be buried in nearby Shanganagh cemetery in Shankill alongside his beloved wife Joan.

More than 100 people turned up to sign the book by mid-afternoon, with some leaving individual messages.

"Thank you Garret for all your service to Ireland," wrote Margaret Hogan from Enniskerry in Wicklow.

The consistent message from people who turned up to sign the book was that they admired Dr FitzGerald for being a straight-talking politician, who showed no signs of the grubby self-interest of some in his profession.

"I just loved his integrity and intellect. He was the one person who got me interested in politics," said Attilia Gardner, from Sandymount in Dublin.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown cathaoirleach Labour councillor Lettie McCarthy said there was a message in this for politicians.

"Maybe all of us, as politicians, should learn from that and ask why has somebody like FitzGerald received such warmth and feelings from people?"

Another person who signed the book of condolence yesterday was Paul Murphy, a council employee who used to meet Dr FitzGerald in unusual circumstances.

"I used to see him bringing down his washing to the laundrette in Rathmines. He'd stop and talk to you. I just always thought he was an honourable guy," he said.

Hilary Malcolmson (73) arrived into the town hall with her husband Michael (73), who had just had lunch to celebrate his birthday.

Mrs Malcolmson, from Dun Laoghaire, said it was a shame that Dr FitzGerald had not been well enough to take part in the queen's visit before he died.

"He had a quirky sense of humour and you never knew what he was going to come up with," she added.

Irish Independent