Thousands pay tribute to Gene Fitzgerald
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern joined thousands of mourners last night to pay tribute to veteran minister and MEP Gene Fitzgerald.
Mr Fitzgerald (75) died in the Bons Secours Hospital, Cork, last Friday after a short illness.
Last night, thousands gathered for Mr Fitzgerald's removal from O'Connor's funeral home in Wilton to Curraheen Church.
The Taoiseach, who served in Government alongside the Cork TD, was joined by Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, whose late father was a close friend of Mr Fitzgerald.
Also in attendance were virtually all Cork TDs, including Labour Minister Billy Kelleher, Junior Environment Minister Batt O'Keeffe, Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin and Junior Enterprise Minister Michael Ahern. The Oireachtas was represented by Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue, while Health Minister Mary Harney was also present.
Senior opposition TDs also paid their respects, including former Sports Minister Bernard Allen (FG).
A special GAA guard of honour was provided by Cork County Board and Muskerry Board officials.
Mr Ahern described Mr Fitzgerald as "a true gentleman of politics" and said he was widely respected across the political spectrum.
Mr Fitzgerald, who was first elected to the Dail in 1972, served in three major Cabinet posts, including Labour, Finance and Public Service before switching from national politics to Brussels after being elected to the European Parliament for Munster.
He had served at Cabinet level under both Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey.
He retired from the European Parliament in 1994 after serving two full terms. During his career, he was successfully returned to the European Parliament twice and to the Dail on five occasions.
However, despite retiring from national politics in 1994, he remained deeply involved in Fianna Fail and in various organisations in his native Cork.
Mr Fitzgerald is survived by his wife Noreen, children Aileen, Aine, Aindrias, Niamh and Eimear, his sister Mamie, and his brother Dan.
Mr Fitzgerald will be buried today after 2pm Requiem Mass in the Church of the Real Presence, Curraheen, Cork. He will be buried in St Oliver's Cemetery.
The oration at today's funeral service will be delivered by Mr Martin.