Garret FitzGerald

Irish politician and prime minister (1926–2011)

Garret Desmond FitzGerald (9 February 1926 – 19 May 2011) was an Irish politician who served twice as Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland, from 1981 to 1982 and again from 1982 to 1987.[3] Elected to Seanad Éireann in 1965, and in 1969 to Dáil Éireann as a Teachta Dála (TD), he served as Ireland's foreign minister from 1973 to 1977 and as leader of Fine Gael from 1977 to 1987.

Garret FitzGerald
FitzGerald in 1975
8th Taoiseach
In office
14 December 1982 – 10 March 1987
PresidentPatrick Hillery
Preceded byCharles Haughey
Succeeded byCharles Haughey
In office
30 June 1981 – 9 March 1982
PresidentPatrick Hillery
TánaisteMichael O'Leary
Preceded byCharles Haughey
Succeeded byCharles Haughey
Leader of the Opposition
In office
10 March 1982 – 14 December 1982
PresidentPatrick Hillery
TaoiseachCharles Haughey
Preceded byCharles Haughey
Succeeded byCharles Haughey
In office
5 July 1977 – 30 June 1981
PresidentPatrick Hillery
Preceded byJack Lynch
Succeeded byCharles Haughey
Leader of Fine Gael
In office
1 July 1977 – 10 March 1987
DeputyPeter Barry
Preceded byLiam Cosgrave
Succeeded byAlan Dukes
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
14 March 1973 – 5 July 1977
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byBrian Lenihan
Succeeded byMichael O'Kennedy
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1969 – November 1992
ConstituencyDublin South-East
In office
23 June 1965 – 18 June 1969
ConstituencyIndustrial and Commercial Panel
Personal details
Garret Desmond FitzGerald

(1926-02-09)9 February 1926
Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland
Died19 May 2011(2011-05-19) (aged 85)
Phibsborough, Dublin, Ireland
Cause of deathPneumonia[1]
Resting placeShanganagh Cemetery
 Shankill, Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Joan O'Farrell
(m. 1947; died 1999)
RelationsEithne FitzGerald (daughter-in-law)
Children3, including John
EducationBelvedere College
Alma materUniversity College Dublin
  • Barrister
  • economist
  • journalist
  • lecturer
  • politician
Nickname(s)Garret the Good[2]

Early life change

FitzGerald was born in Dublin in 1926 into a very politically active family. His father was Irish revolutionary, poet, publicist and politician (1888-1947) Desmond FitzGerald, His mother, the former Mabel Washington McConnell, was a nationalist and republican of Ulster Protestant descent.[source?]

He was educated at the Jesuit Belvedere College and University College Dublin (UCD). A bright student who counted among his contemporaries in UCD his future political rival, Charles Haughey, who also knew Joan O'Farrell (the Liverpool-born daughter of a British army officer), a fellow student whom FitzGerald would marry in 1947.[4]

He later qualified as a barrister from the King's Inns of Ireland.[5]

Early political life change

FitzGerald was eager to enter politics and, although it was suggested by several members of Fianna Fáil (including Charles Haughey) that he should join them,[6] he made his entry into party politics under the banner of Fine Gael. He was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1965 and soon built up his political profile. FitzGerald was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1969 general election, for the Dublin South-East constituency.[7]

Minister for Foreign Affairs change

After the 1973 general election, Fine Gael came to power in a coalition government with the Labour Party, with Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach. FitzGerald hoped that he would take over as Minister for Finance,[8] however the position went to Richie Ryan, with FitzGerald becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Ireland was no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, but in 1973 had joined the European Economic Community (EEC), now known as the European Union (EU). FitzGerald, with his innovative views, energy and fluency in the French language, won Ireland a status in European affairs far beyond the country's size and ensured that the first Irish presidency of the European Council in 1975 was a noted success.[9]

Leader of Fine Gael change

In 1977, the National Coalition of Fine Gael and Labour suffered a disastrous electoral defeat in the general election. Liam Cosgrave resigned as party leader and FitzGerald was chosen by acclamation to succeed him.[8]

Under FitzGerald, Fine Gael experienced a rapid rise in support and popularity. After the November 1982 election it held only five seats fewer than Fianna Fáil (their closest ever margin until 2011; at times Fianna Fáil was nearly twice as large), with Fine Gael in the Oireachtas bigger than Fianna Fáil, who had been the dominant force in Irish politics for 40 years.[10]

Taoiseach 1981–82 change

By the time of the 1981 general election, Fine Gael won 65 seats and formed a minority coalition government with the Labour Party and the support of a number of Independent TDs.[source?] FitzGerald was elected Taoiseach, on 30 June 1981.

Two key problems faced FitzGerald during his first period: Northern Ireland and the worsening economic situation.[11] On one occasion where he met with relatives of the H-Block hunger strikers, two of Thomas McElwee's sisters, Mary and Nora, broke down and left the meeting;[11] Mary said to the media outside that "he's doing nothing, he's asking for suggestions".[11] FitzGerald then ordered Gardaí to remove the families from the meeting.[a]

In the subsequent general election in February 1982, Fine Gael lost only two seats but were out of power.[source?] However, a third general election within eighteen months, in November 1982, resulted in FitzGerald being returned as Taoiseach for a second time, heading a Fine Gael–Labour coalition with a working majority.[source?]

Taoiseach 1982–87 change

FitzGerald (right) and US President Ronald Reagan (left) in 1986

Constitutional reform change

As Taoiseach for a second time, FitzGerald advocated a liberalisation of Irish society. His attempt to introduce divorce was defeated in a referendum, although he did liberalise Ireland's contraception laws.[8]

A controversial Pro-Life Amendment (anti-abortion clause), which was stated to recognise the "Right to Life of the Unborn, with due regard to the Equal Right to Life of the Mother", was added to the Irish constitution—against FitzGerald's advice—in a 1983 national referendum.[12]

Northern Ireland change

FitzGerald set up the New Ireland Forum in 1983, which brought together representatives of the constitutional political parties in the Republic and the nationalist SDLP from Northern Ireland.[13] It provided the incentive for the reopening of serious negotiations between the Irish and British governments, which resulted in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.[b]

While the Agreement was rejected and criticised by Unionists, it was said to become the basis for developing trust and common action between the Irish and British governments which, in time, would ultimately bring about the Downing Street Declaration of 1993 and, subsequently, the republican and loyalist cease-fires.[8]

Infighting and declining support change

In January 1987, the Labour Party members of the government withdrew from the government over disagreements due to budget proposals.[source?] FitzGerald continued as Taoiseach, heading a minority Fine Gael government and proposed the stringent budgetary cutbacks that Labour had blocked for some four years.[source?] Fianna Fáil returned to power in March 1987, after Fine Gael were heavily defeated in the 1987 general election, and Charles Haughey was elected Taoiseach.[source?]

Post-Taoiseach period change

FitzGerald retired as leader of Fine Gael immediately after the election of Charles Haughey as Taoiseach,[1] and retired completely from politics at the 1992 general election. His wife, Joan, died before him in 1999;[4] after that FitzGerald wrote a weekly column every Saturday in The Irish Times, and lectured widely at home and abroad on public affairs.[14]

In 2009, FitzGerald had received a new ministerial car, the first and only one to have been bought by the state since an economic recession hit the country in 2008.[15]

Death change

On 5 May 2011, it was reported that FitzGerald was seriously ill in a Dublin hospital.[16] The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, sent his regards and called him an "institution".[17] He was put on a ventilator.[18] On 19 May he died aged 85,[19] from pneumonia,[1][20] at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin.[21]

Governments led by FitzGerald change

Notes change

  1. FitzGerald's response was, in the words of Sweeney (2010, p. 231), to "lay all the blame for the hunger strikers on the republican movement and to suggest an immediate unilateral end to their military campaign".[11]
  2. The Agreement provided for a mechanism by which the Republic could be consulted by the British government (under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) regarding the governance of Northern Ireland.[13]

References change

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Poole, Amanda (20 May 2011). "Queen pays tribute to former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  2. "Garret the Good: A gallant statesman". Irish Examiner. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  3. "Dr. Garret FitzGerald". Oireachtas Members Database. Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Garret Fitzgerald". The Telegraph. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  5. "The Bar Council of Ireland". Law Library. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  6. FitzGerald, Garret. "The Political Party" (Interview). Interviewed by Ursula Halligan.
  7. "Garret FitzGerald". Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Dr Garret FitzGerald dies in a Dublin hospital aged 85". Irish Independent. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  9. "Impact of Ireland on EU policy". European Commission. 30 October 2010. Archived from the original on 31 October 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  10. McDonald, Henry (26 February 2011). "Fianna Fáil trounced as Fine Gael and Labour set to form coalition". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Sweeney, Eamonn (2010). Down Down Deeper and Down: Ireland in the 70s and 80s. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 9780717146338 – via Google Books.
  12. "Referendum on the right to life of the unborn (1983)" (PDF). Department for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. p. 32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Obituary: Irish statesman Garret FitzGerald". BBC News. BBC. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  14. "Garret FitzGerald". The Irish Times. 20 May 2011. Archived from the original on 26 October 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  15. Lally, Conor (15 October 2010). "State cars and Garda drivers cost almost €11m over past two years". The Irish Times. In 2008 11 of the cars were changed at a cost to the exchequer of €510,000. However, since then and because of the recession, only one car has been bought, for former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in 2009.
  16. McDonald, Henry (5 May 2011). "Garret FitzGerald, former Irish prime minister, seriously ill in hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  17. "Taoiseach gives details of job creation concept on US mission". The Irish Times. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  18. O'Brien, Paul; John Riordan (6 May 2011). "'Irish institution' FitzGerald put on ventilator after falling seriously ill". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  19. "A courageous and visionary taoiseach". The Irish Times. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  20. "Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald dies aged 85". The Irish Times. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  21. "Garret FitzGerald dies aged 85". RTÉ News. RTÉ. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2020.

Other websites change

Preceded by
John A. Costello
Seán MacEntee [en]
Seán Moore [en]
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Dublin South-East
Succeeded by
Frances Fitzgerald [en]
Eoin Ryan Jnr [en]
Ruairi Quinn [en]
Political offices
Preceded by
Brian Lenihan [en]
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael O'Kennedy
Preceded by
Jack Lynch
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Charles Haughey
Preceded by
Charles Haughey
Succeeded by
Charles Haughey
Preceded by
Charles Haughey
Leader of the Opposition
March–December 1982
Succeeded by
Charles Haughey
Preceded by
Charles Haughey
Succeeded by
Charles Haughey
Party political offices
Preceded by
Liam Cosgrave
Leader of Fine Gael
Succeeded by
Alan Dukes [en]