'A patriot and an absolute gentleman' - Tributes paid to former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave has been remembered as a "patriot" and "one of our greatest leaders" by political figureheads, following his death aged 97 tonight.
Tributes have poured in to Mr Cosgrave, the son of the first head of government of the Irish Free State, WT Cosgrave.
Mr Cosgrave led a Fine Gael-Labour coalition between 1973 and 1977.
Irish politicians have paid their respects to the former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he was "deeply saddened" by the news and described Mr Cosgrave as a "man of integrity."
Mr Varadkar said: "Liam Cosgrave was someone who devoted his life to public service; a grateful country thanks and honours him for that and for always putting the nation first.
"Throughout his life he worked to protect and defend the democratic institutions of our State, and showed great courage and determination in doing so.
"He always believed in peaceful co-operation as the only way of achieving a genuine union between the people on this island, and in the 1970s he celebrated that this country had embarked, in his own words, ‘on a new career of progress and development in the context of Europe’.
"Liam provided a powerful link back to the foundation of the State.
"His father, W.T. Cosgrave, helped create many of our institutions, and defended them when they were in jeopardy, and his son shared the same values and approach to public life. He joined the army during the second world war when volunteers were needed, reaching the rank of lieutenant, and he brought the same spirit of civic responsibility to his political career.
"An internationally respected statesman, Liam Cosgrave was part of the government which declared Ireland a Republic in 1949, and as Minister for External Affairs he oversaw Ireland joining the United Nations."
He also revealed that Mr Cosgrave has been a big influence on him, explaining: "I had the honour on a few occasions to meet and be in the presence of Liam Cosgrave, and I was always struck by his commanding presence and great humility, which in him were complementary characteristics.
"In my own career I have been inspired by his spirit of incredible public service and as Taoiseach I hope to live up to his great example."
President Michael D Higgins remembered Ms Cosgrave's many achievements as he reflected on his legacy.
He said: "I have learned with great sadness of the death of Liam Cosgrave, former Taoiseach, Minister, party leader, and valuable member of the Council of State.
"Liam Cosgrave will be remembered not only as an effective Cabinet Minister but as a Taoiseach with the capacity to win and secure the stability of a multi-party coalition.
"Among his most memorable achievements was that as Minister for External Affairs, when Ireland's entry into the United Nations in 1955 was secured, and during which time Liam Cosgrave gave shape to Ireland’s independent voice on the global stage."
He continued to say: "Liam Cosgrave was committed to serving the people of Ireland with all of his energy, intellect as well as passion.
"In retirement, he loved to be among the people, be it at State occasions or sporting events and it is fitting that we pay tribute to his significant contribution to Ireland."
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Cosgraves most striking quality was “his unshakeable conviction, whether to his deep Catholic faith, or to preserving the democratic integrity and security of the State”.
“He was a man of great loyalty, old fashioned courtesy, personal warmth and always had a great sense of humour.
“I had the honour to serve under his leadership and to learn from him. He was no ideologue but was rooted in common sense. He had a genuine rapport with people and was always conscious of the impact of policy on people’s everyday lives.”
Mr Kenny said he had a “closeness to people” which was reflected in his ability to top the poll in Dun Laoghaire.
“He led one of the best Governments the country has seen and did so with a quiet dignity and a steely resistance to those who would undermine the State. He was conscious at all times of the example of his father W.T Cosgrave and sought to emulate his qualities of probity and courage.”
Mr Kenny said the Fine Gael party owes Mr Cosgrave a great debt, adding he became a TD “at the bleakest time in the party’s history when many forecast its demise”.
“His persistence and belief saw him steer the party back to recovery and Government.
“He was kind and encouraging to me as a young TD, and always available for advice - but only when it was wanted. One of my most touching memories was the phone call from him on the night of my election as Taoiseach in 2011: “You have made an old man very happy,” he said to me. It was a very proud moment for me.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Mr Cosgrave's “extraordinary career has often been somewhat overlooked”.
“This is very unfair as, by any standard, his was a quite remarkable tenure in our public life.
“Until today, he was the last Taoiseach to be born prior to the foundation of the state. It is also extraordinary to think that a member of the 1948 inter-party government, formed almost 70 years ago, was still with us until today.”
Mr Martin said he served as Taoiseach during some of the most turbulent years in our history as an independent state.
“Throughout all those years he showed real grit, resilience and determination both in opposition and in government.”
“Whilst he did not lead Ireland into the European Community, he became Taoiseach a couple of months after our accession and proved more than capable in this new challenge for the country. In 1975, Ireland held the presidency of the Community for the first time and it was a notable success under his stewardship.
“He will be remembered as a fair and principled man who conducted the business of government efficiently,” Mr Martin said.
He concluded by extending his sympathies to the Cosgrave family and “to the Fine Gael party on the loss of their elder statesman”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Liam Cosgrave - a gentleman and great political leader."
Former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was elected to the Dáil in 1977 when Mr Cosgrave was the outgoing Taoiesach.
“Liam was the outgoing Taoiseach and, over the short few years we shared in Leinster House, he was encouraging and kind to me as a young deputy.
“We came from other sides of the tragic civil war split lingered on for so long in Irish politics, but it would be impossible to doubt Liam Cosgrave’s patriotism. He was a staunch supporter of the institutions of the state and he was very strong on security and law and order,” Mr Ahern said.
“I served with Liam Cosgrave on the Council of State and would meet him regularly at state functions and commemorations up until recently. He was a gentleman and someone whose viewpoint it was always worth hearing.
“I want to extend my sympathies to his family and friends.”
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who recently visited Mr Cosgrave, described him as “a staunch and steadfast defender of the institutions of the State particularly as Taoiseach during the darkest years of the Troubles."
Deputy Noel Rock Tweeted: "A patriot and an absolute gentleman. Sorry to say that Liam Cosgrave passed away tonight. RIP."
Former Taoiseach John Bruton described Mr Cosgrave as a "real patriot".
Speaking to RTE News, Mr Bruton - who was Taoiseach between 1994-1997- said:
"I did indeed (learn from him). He was somebody I wished to model myself, the modesty, not speaking too often, not seeking publicity, just doing the job - those were characteristics of Liam Cosgrave," he said.
"I certainly was inspired by him.
"He was extremely sharp intellectually at that time (when they last met recently) and I think he continued to be right to the end of his life.
"I'm really very, very sad at the loss of somebody who was an inspiration to me throughout my political life," he added.
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael, Liam Cosgrave.
“He had a long distinguished career in politics, following in the footsteps of his father W.T. Cosgrave.
“As Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael, he led the party through a successful coalition with Labour from 1973-1977.
“He was revered among Fine Gael politicians and supporters across Ireland and held in high esteem by those who witnessed his incredible contribution to Irish political life. He will be greatly missed by us all."
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said: "A true patriot, a great leader and a charming man. RIP Liam Cosgrave."
Senator Frank Feighan said: "Sad to hear of the death of former FG leader and Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave! Always admired him."
European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said: "I'm sad to hear of the passing of former Fine Gael party leader & Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, RIP."
MEP Brian Hayes MEP said: "Ireland has lost one of our greatest leader RIP Liam Cosgrave."
Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who now holds Mr Cosgrave's seat in Dub Laoghaire, said he "served Ireland with great distinction and patriotism".
"He was a most honourable man. I am very proud to inherit his legacy as a Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams extended his sympathies to Mr Cosgrave's family, friends and colleagues.
He said in a statement: "I want to extend my condolences to the family and friends of former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave on his passing this evening.
"I also want to express my sympathies with the leader of Fine Gael, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and to the Fine Gael party on the death of their former leader."
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Ms Cosgrave was a "gentleman to his fingertips" and "a true patriot."
On behalf of his party, Mr Howlin said: "Liam Cosgrave led a Fine-Gael Labour coalition during turbulent times in the 1970s, alongside Tánaiste and Labour leader Brendan Corish.
“I know Liam was a very close personal friend of Brendan's from that time, and as my own mentor, Brendan often told me what a gentleman Liam Cosgrave was, and how generous of spirit he was.
“I had the privilege of meeting Liam Cosgrave myself on many occasions with his daughter Mary, and he really was a gentleman to his fingertips; a true patriot."
- More to follow...