Tuesday 20 November 2018

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave has died aged 97

Death ends personal link to the foundation of Irish State

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Picture: Tom Burke
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Picture: Tom Burke
David Ceannt (left) grandnephew of Eamonn Ceannt, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Cathal McSwiney Brugha, grandson of Cathal Brugha, at the unveiling of the plaque at St James's Hospital. Photo: Maxwell
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave lends his support for European candidate Brian Hayes at the Church of the Assumption, Rathfarnham, Dublin. Photo: Barry Cronin
Ireland talks: Ted Heath at the time of the Sunningdale talks with, from left, Oliver Napier of the Allliance Party, Liam Cosgrave, Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt
22 September 2013; Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin.
John Downing

John Downing

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave has died in Dublin at the age of 97 years.

Mr Cosgrave, who led a successful Fine Gael-Labour Coalition from 1973 until 1977, was the son of the first head of government of the Irish Free State, WT Cosgrave.

Father and son, who had a very close relationship, dominated Irish political life for the first six decades of this State’s existence, as both government leaders and leaders of the opposition.

His passing ends a very personal link with the very difficult birth of the Irish State in 1922 which was followed by wholesale IRA destruction and murders met by brutal government reprisal killings.

Tanaiste Brendan Corish, left, and Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave pictured in 1976
Tanaiste Brendan Corish, left, and Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave pictured in 1976
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in 1977
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and his wife Vera at Leopardstown Racecourse
Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach in 1973
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave with his daughter-in-law Joan and his son Liam T
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave looks at a picture of his father, WT Cosgrave, who presided over the reopening of the refurbished GPO in 1929. Photo: Damien Eagers
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave donated his father's WT Cosgrave papers to the Royal Irish Academy,Dawson street,Dublin Mr.Cosgrave is holding a picture of his father ( on right- smaller of the two men ) disguised as a holy Brother when he was on the run in 1920. Picture: Tom Burke
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Ireland talks: Ted Heath at the time of the Sunningdale talks with, from left, Oliver Napier of the Allliance Party, Liam Cosgrave, Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt
A young Liam Cosgrave (on right) with his brother Michael and his parents, WT Cosgrave and his wife Louisa, at the official opening of Ardnacrusha power station on July 22, 1929
THE OLD GUARD: Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael and Jack Lynch of Fianna Fail in 1981
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave with Siobhn Fitzpatrick,the Academy's Librarian who took receipt of the papers at the ceremony marking the donation of his father's WT Cosgrave papers to the Royal Irish Academy,Dawson street,Dublin yesterday .Picture: Tom Burke
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave with his daughter Mary at the ceremony marking the donation of his father's WT Cosgrave papers to the Royal Irish Academy,Dawson street, Dublin yesterday. Picture: Tom Burke
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave heading to see the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Kerry, at Croke Park, Dublin today. Picture by Fergal Phillips. 20/9/15
Former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave at the ceremony in the graveyard, where his father, former President WT Cosgrave, is buried. Photo: Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave

Read More: Liam Cosgrave Obituary: Devout Catholic, conservative and highly principled Taoiseach

The former Taoiseach is chiefly remembered as a staunch defender of Irish constitutional nationalism against serious subversive threats from IRA and other paramilitary violence through the 1970s. 

His government took a hardline anti-terrorist stance as worsening violence in the North threatened to spill into the Republic during a very troubled decade.

He also privately confronted the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch in 1970 with his knowledge of government ministers’ involvement in importing arms for the IRA. 

22 September 2013; Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin.
22 September 2013; Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave ahead of the GAA Football All-Ireland Championship Finals, Croke Park, Dublin.

This incident led to a major constitutional crisis.These aspects of his career mirrored that of his father, WT Cosgrave, a senior commander in the 1916 Easter Rising. 

As first head of the Irish Free State he had faced down IRA factions who rejected the Treaty with Britain in 1923 with the aftermath of the bitter Civil War and its aftermath continued for a decade.

Liam Cosgrave was also a tough leader of Fine Gael through their fractious wilderness years until they finally managed to break Fianna Fáil’s long monopoly on power in a landmark election victory in February 1973.

But his new partnership “National Coalition” with then-Labour leader, Brendan Corish, was hit by a major oil crisis in autumn 1973 as the Middle East oil-producing nations hiked prices and reduced supply.

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Inflation went into a spiral and soon the Government was very unpopular.

Read More: 'A patriot and an absolute gentleman' - Tributes paid to former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave

An ill-judged early general election called for June 1977 led to a record landslide win for Fianna Fáil, under Jack Lynch, who had promised huge benefits to voters. 

Days later Liam Cosgrave, aged just 57, stepped down down from the leadership of Fine Gael to be succeeded by Dr Garret FitzGerald

Ireland talks: Ted Heath at the time of the Sunningdale talks with, from left, Oliver Napier of the Allliance Party, Liam Cosgrave, Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt
Ireland talks: Ted Heath at the time of the Sunningdale talks with, from left, Oliver Napier of the Allliance Party, Liam Cosgrave, Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt

Thereafter he did not contest his Dáil seat in Dún Laoghaire in the 1981 general election, ending a career as a TD which had begun in 1943. There followed a long retirement during which he led a very private but active life, indulging his passion for horse-riding, attending horse race meetings, and following a wide range of other sports, especially hurling.

Prior to his death he had been in Tallaght Hospital for several months. Illnesss caused him to miss his first All Ireland Finals since the early 1930s as his passion for horse racing was matched by his love for hurling.

He shared his love of horses with his wife, Vera Osborne, who came from a well-known Kildare family of horse owners. He and Vera, six years his junior, married in 1952 and she died in September of 2016

Mr Cosgrave is survived by his daughter, Mary, sons Liam and Ciarán, grandchildren and his extended family.

David Ceannt (left) grandnephew of Eamonn Ceannt, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Cathal McSwiney Brugha, grandson of Cathal Brugha, at the unveiling of the plaque at St James's Hospital. Photo: Maxwell
David Ceannt (left) grandnephew of Eamonn Ceannt, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Cathal McSwiney Brugha, grandson of Cathal Brugha, at the unveiling of the plaque at St James's Hospital. Photo: Maxwell

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