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Fine Gael reformer Declan Costello dies at 84

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Enda Kenny led tributes to former Fine Gael TD and Attorney General Declan Costello, who died yesterday aged 84 following a long illness.

Mr Costello, a son of former Taoiseach John A Costello, served in the Dail for 20 years and later became president of the High Court.

He was also one of those who tried to push Fine Gael to the left in the 1960s, and persuaded the party to publish the document 'Towards a Just Society'.

Garret FitzGerald made the 'Just Society' document mainstream party policy when he assumed the Fine Gael leadership from 1977. Mrs McAleese last night described Mr Costello as a "reforming Attorney General and distinguished member, and later president, of the High Court".

"Declan Costello was a public servant of immense intellect, integrity and social compassion," she added. "It is very poignant that the passing of Declan Costello and Garret FitzGerald, who both shared this progressive vision, should occur in such proximity to each other."

Mr Kenny described Mr Costello as a "public servant of huge ability, fairness and integrity".

"Declan Costello was the intellectual powerhouse behind the development of the Just Society platform within Fine Gael, an initiative that helped to modernise the party and broaden its appeal," he said.

"To his family, I extend my deepest sympathy on the loss of a man who served his country with great distinction."

Former Taoiseach John Bruton last night said that Mr Costello had inspired him to enter politics.

"The Just Society policy document of 1964, with which his name will always be associated, was far more than an inspiring slogan," he said. "It was ... a very detailed policy programme produced by a party in opposition, objectively analysing society's ills, and then prescribing detailed remedies."

Mr Costello was elected to the Dail in 1951 as a Fine Gael TD for Dublin North-West, a seat he held until 1969, when he stood down. He stood again in 1973 in Dublin South-West, and was elected. Fine Gael was back in government after that election and Mr Costello was appointed Attorney General, a position he held until he left politics in 1977 to become a High Court judge.

In 1979, he presided over the Costello Inquiry into the Whiddy Island disaster, where the Betelgeuse oil tanker exploded at an offshore jetty in west Cork, killing 50 people.

He was appointed president of the High Court in 1994 and retired in 1997.

Irish Independent