Saturday 16 December 2017

Nation has suffered the death of a giant

The timing of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald's death, coming as it did during Queen Elizabeth's state visit to Ireland, highlighted his enormous contribution to the development of modern Ireland.

When Garret, as he was universally known, first became Taoiseach in 1981, the notion of a state visit to this country by the British monarch would have been unthinkable. The Troubles had dragged on year after bloody year for more than a decade and the H-Block hunger strikes were approaching their awful climax. Only two years before, in an appalling violation of the Irish tradition of hospitality, the IRA had murdered Earl Mountbatten, an uncle of the queen's husband the Duke of Edinburgh.

The fact that both governments now judge it to be an appropriate time for Her Majesty to visit this country, the first time a reigning British monarch has been to what is now the Republic of Ireland in a century, shows just how far we have come in the past three decades.

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