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Brilliant on the details but short on brevity

GARRET FitzGerald was the first Taoiseach to ever publish an autobiography which was not ghost-written, but brevity was not one of his strong points.

Getting the statesman, journalist and academic to keep things to the point was a difficulty for Michael Gill, from Gill & Macmillan, which published 'All in a Life' in 1991.

"I worked very closely with him on that book," he said last night. "One of the things I remember was his extraordinary memory and level of detail which at times had to be curbed. The contract was for 200,000 words, and the first draft was 400,000 words.

"He was a joy to work with. He always wanted us to re-publish some of the material which we insisted on leaving out. I think it was outstanding because it was the first major autobiography done by a Taoiseach. Subsequent to that, autobiographies were lightweight."

Dr FitzGerald graduated from UCD in 1946 with first class honours in History and French, and a second in Spanish. His PhD in economics was awarded in 1968.

But his interests were far more wide-ranging. During his career he published on a wide range of subjects with his first book, published in 1961, dealing with state companies, followed by a study on economic planning eight years later.

His academic research included work on Irish tourism, the decline of the Irish language between 1770 and 1870 and a review of Irish education in 4,000 electoral areas in the 1840s.

His books also addressed the plight of those in the Third World and explored the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since 1991, despite having officially retired, he published four more books including 'Reflection on the Irish State' which examined the evolution of contemporary Ireland and analysed the problems it faced. A second updated autobiography called 'Just Garret' was published last year. Sean O'Keeffe from Liberties Press said it was while writing this book that Dr FitzGerald revealed one of the major influences on his writing style -- Queen Victoria.

"He told me he got his writing style from Queen Victoria -- lots of long sentences and capital letters. Garret wrote his own books, took great care with sentences, but he did err on the side of length," he added.

Irish Independent