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From the highs of peace process to the lows of recession The lows

Clockwise from top: Garret as a young boy in the late 1920s; working as an Aer Lingus executive in the early 1950s; his marriage to Joan on their wedding day in 1947. PICTURES: GILL AND MACMILLAN

The highs

  • HE served as Taoiseach from July 1981 to February 1982, and from December 1982 to June 1987.
  • He negotiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1985, which gave the Irish Government a role in the North. It was a key step in the peace process.
  • He had many epic battles with Fianna Fail leader Charlie Haughey and the rivalry between 'Charlie' and 'Garret' dominated Irish politics in the 1980s.
  • He led a 'constitutional crusade' which was designed to separate the State from the influence of the Catholic Church -- and introduce a more liberal society. He did not succeed with the 1986 divorce referendum -- but he was seen as being ahead of his time.
  • He helped to establish the State's position in what was then the European Community and led the highly successful first Irish Presidency of the EC Council of Ministers in 1975.
  • He built support for Fine Gael and brought it within touching distance of Fianna Fail. Under his leadership, the party won 70 seats in the November 1982 General Election. Fine Gael never came close to this again until this year's General Election -- when it won 76 seats.
  • He played a key role on the 'Yes' side in the first and second Lisbon Treaty campaigns, despite his advancing years.

The lows

  • He was Taoiseach during the recession in the 1980s, when he failed to turn around the deficit in the public finances. However, supporters point to the fact the deficit was halved and inflation reduced from 20pc to 3pc.
  • He accused Mr Haughey of having a "flawed pedigree" when Mr Haughey was nominated as Taoiseach in December 1979.

There was much comment at the time about the fact that Mr Haughey's wife, mother and children were sitting in the public gallery in the Dail at the time. l He had borrowed the equivalent of IR£170,000 (€216,000) from AIB to buy shares in the aircraft leasing company GPA -- which subsequently collapsed. He sold his house to his son Mark to raise money to pay down his loans. The Moriarty Tribunal heard in 2000 that representatives for Mr FitzGerald agreed to pay AIB IR£40,000 to settle the IR£170,000 debt.

That meant AIB wrote off IR£130,000 (€165,000) of the debt. The debt settlement was investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal because they wanted to compare how the bank treated Dr FitzGerald and Mr Haughey, who had his IR£1.1m debt reduced by AIB to IR£750,000.

Irish Independent