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Death of Former Taoiseach: Expressions of Sympathy

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 8

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Death of Former Taoiseach: Expressions of Sympathy

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of an t-iarThaoiseach and former Member of this House, Liam Cosgrave. As Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Liam Cosgrave was someone who devoted his life to public service. Today a grateful country thanks and honours him for always putting our nation first.

Mar Thaoiseach agus mar ceannaire Fhine Gael, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh lena chlann agus lena chairde. Bhí Liam Cosgrave tugtha don tseirbhís phoiblí le linn a shaoil, agus tá an tír fíor-bhuíoch as an sár-seirbhís sin, ag gabháil buíochais leis agus ag tabhairt onóra dó as an saothar a rinne sé in ar thug sé tús áite do leas an náisiúin i gconaí. Le linn a shaoil, rinne sé a dhícheall institiúidí daonlathacha an Stáit a chosaint, agus a chaomhnú, le misneach agus le díograis. Bhí a shaol ar fad tugtha do sheirbhís an Stáit, agus spreag sé an oiread sin daoine lena dhiongbháilteacht ciúin, a mhisneach agus a rúndaingne.

Throughout his life Liam Cosgrave worked to protect and defend the democratic institutions of the State, and showed great courage and determination in doing so. He always believed in peaceful co-operation as the only way of achieving unity among 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".

Born in 1920, in the middle of the War of Independence, 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. 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 in the Government that declared Ireland a Republic, and as Minister for External Affairs he brought Ireland into the United Nations, thus taking our place among the nations of the world. As Taoiseach he was invited to address the Joint Houses of Congress in 1976, a notable honour, and one which enabled him to make some powerful points about how a democratic state should derive its power from the consent of the governed.

Consistently opposed to all 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. In May 1970, he showed his courage and determination to get at the truth in this Chamber, when as leader of the Opposition he pressed the Taoiseach about the plot to import arms illegally after receiving information from a trusted source. A few days later Liam Cosgrave addressed this Chamber and spoke of a situation that was "without parallel in this country since the foundation of the State". His action and that of the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, has been credited with saving the security forces of the State from becoming embroiled in a crisis in Northern Ireland, and has been called by some a great public service, and by others his finest hour.

A man of conscience and principle, Cosgrave joined Fine Gael at the age of 17 years, was a Deputy for almost 40 years, and leader of the Fine Gael party for 12 years. His term as Taoiseach between 1973 and 1977 will be remembered for Sunningdale, the qualities he brought in leading a successful coalition, and his courageous defence of the State against threats, both internal and external. Ministers from both parties in that coalition praised the way he chaired Cabinet meetings. He believed in giving everyone their say before reaching a decision. It was a very effective way of doing business. As one of my forebears, John Bruton, said, he set an excellent example.

Liam Cosgrave sometimes arranged special Cabinet meetings to deal with specific topics. In my brief tenure to date, I have tried to follow that example.


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