Wednesday 18 July 2018

'Liam Cosgrave was a divisive figure'- Gerry Adams tells Dáil as tributes pour in for former taoiseach

Ex-taoiseach Liam Cosgrave was just 23 when he joined the Dail
Ex-taoiseach Liam Cosgrave was just 23 when he joined the Dail

John Downing and Cormac McQuinn

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Liam Cosgrave had been “a divisive figure” as Taoiseach in the 1970s as he extended his sympathies to the bereaved family.

“He was for many people during turbulent and controversial periods of our history a controversial and divisive figure but today is not the day to analyse this,” the Sinn Fein leader told the Dáil.

But he said that this was not the time to go in those details. Speaking in Irish, he said instead he wanted to sympathise with his family, the Fine Gael party.

Mr Adams said he did not know Mr Cosgrave personally, but he did see him at many of the 1916 centenary events, at other events over the years, and in Croke Park on many occasions.

He said the former Taoiseach had a long career and his family and the Fine Gael were rightly proud of his achievements.

“He had a long career in this Dail and he had a great privilege of serving as a TD for nearly 40 years representing the people of Dun Laoghaire and Dublin county,” Mr Adams said.

Mr Adams said Mr Cosgrave had been chief whip, junior minister for industry and commerce, minister for external, leader of Fine Gael for 12 years, and Taoiseach.

The Sinn Fein also extended sympathies to the Taoiseach as leader of Fine Gael and to the party generally.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also paid tribute to the late Liam Cosgrave in the Dail saying his predecessor "devoted his life to public service".

"Today a grateful country thanks and honours him for always putting our nation first."

He said Mr Cosgrave  worked to protect and defend the democratic institutions of the State and "showed great courage and determination in doing so".  

The Taosieach noted that as the son of WT Cosgrave, the head of the government of the Irish Free State, "Liam provided a powerful link back to the foundation of the State".

Mr Varadkar referred to Mr Cosgraves period as Taoiseach in the 1970s when the Troubles in the North were at their height.

"Consistently opposed to violence, Liam Cosgrave was a courageous voice against terrorism, and protected the State in times of crisis. He looked terrorism in the eye and did not flinch," Mr Varadkar said.

He said Mr Cosgrave was able to eloquently express the mood and feeling of the country at times of crisis and tragedy. 

"In May 1974, following the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, he spoke movingly of how the men of violence were contributing to ‘a world where reason and compassion are dead and only might is right’," Mr Varadkar said.

He also spoke of Mr Cosgrave's role in overseeing Ireland's early involvement with the European Economic Community.

Mr Varadkar extended his sympathies to Mr Cosgrave's family.

"Predeceased by his beloved wife Vera, Liam was a man of great loyalty and kindness, a wonderful sense of humour, and strong personal dignity.  

"Our thoughts today are with his three children: Mary, Liam - who succeeded him to this House - and Ciarán," he said.

The Taoiseach also referred to Mr Cosgrave's love of horse racing saying: "It was said that Liam Cosgrave marked his Cabinet papers with the same attention to detail that he marked the racing page in the Irish Independent."

Mr Varadkar said: "Liam Cosgrave is perhaps best summed up by paraphrasing one of his most famous speeches: he was a man of integrity who, totally disregarding self-interest, always served the nation.

"We have lost someone great from our land."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin expressed his party's condolences to Mr Cosgrave's family and Fine Gael.

Mr Martin said that WT Cosgrave showed "incredible bravery" during the Easter Rising.

He added: "To be born the son of WT Cosgrave was to be born the son of an important figure in our revolution and a central figure in the early decades of the State. There is no question that an absolute loyalty to his father's ideals formed the core of Liam's beliefs. But he was also a major figure in his own right."

Mr Martin noted that the late Taoiseach was a "robust opponent" of Fianna Fáil but that that despite political rivalries "I have no hesitation in saying that Liam Cosgrave was a man who gave so much to Irish political life and deserves a place of honour in our history."

He highlighted Mr Cosgrave's role as external affairs minister in Ireland joining the United Nations in the 1950s.

"Ireland's unique contribution to the United Nations and the exceptional international standing in which our country is held by so many others began to be constructed because of Laim Cosgrave's leadership at that time," Mr Martin said.

Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, said his knowledge of Liam Cosgrave had come to himself via his own predecessor and mentor, Brendan Corish.

Mr Howlin said the former Labour leader and Liam Cosgrave came from very different political viewpoints – but still managed to cooperate in government in 1973-1977.

He said Liam Cosgrave had stood firm in the face of serious IRA threats to the institutions of state in the 1970s. Mr Cosgrave had also managed to keep a talented government team, full of strong characters, through the 1973-77 term.

The book of condolence for former Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael, Liam Cosgrave will be open in Fine Gael Headquarters today (Thursday) from 2-6pm and tomorrow (Friday) from 9am-6pm.

Mr Cosgrave's funeral mass will take place on Saturday 7th October, at Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham at 12 noon, followed by burial in Goldenbridge Cemetery, Inchicore.

Online Editors

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