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Death of Former Taoiseach: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar]   It was said Liam Cosgrave marked his Cabinet papers with the same attention to detail that he marked the racing page in the Irish Independent and, of course, racing was his great interest outside politics. It was noted that the racing page of the newspaper was the only media output to which he really paid attention - a wise man perhaps. Sometimes, on rare occasions, we have been told that he allowed Cabinet meetings to go on for too long, with a Minister rambling on, and that he would slip out the racing page and study the form for the weekend.

  Because he was leader in the days before the Dáil was televised the public did not get to see just how good Liam Cosgrave was in this Chamber. Although he was a man of few words, who did not believe in making speeches in the Cabinet, he chose his words carefully and when he used them he was able to make them count. To quote a senior figure in the Labour Party at the time, "When you sat behind him on the benches listening, you felt very secure, you felt somewhat proud, you were reassured." He was able to express eloquently 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 about how the men of violence were contributing to "a world where reason and compassion are dead and only might is right." It was his desire to find a peaceful settlement which inspired him to come to the Sunningdale Agreement which became the template for the Good Friday Agreement, peace and power-sharing in the future.

  As Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave hosted a very successful meeting of EEC Heads of State and Government in Dublin Castle. He welcomed the first visit by a British Prime Minister to Ireland since independence, with a Prime Minister and the Taoiseach meeting as equals.

  On moral and social issues, Liam Cosgrave's views reflected deeply held religious beliefs. However, even those who disagreed with him profoundly praised his approach which was always respectful towards others who had a different point of view. His decision to vote against his own Government’s contraception Bill in 1974 has always drawn attention and it surprised many at the time, but whatever about the rights or wrongs of the issue, he showed his courage in allowing a free vote on what he believed was a matter of personal conscience and he also had the courage to follow his own conscience on the issue.

  No matter how high the office he assumed Liam Cosgrave never forgot about serving his constituents and the community. He took an enormous interest in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and believed politicians' political strength and legitimacy came from their democratic mandate in their constituency. In fact, history tells us that in the Élysée Palace, while he was preparing to take over the European Presidency, he kept in touch with events back home in order that he could monitor the resolution of a strike at Blackrock post office.

  Predeceased by his beloved wife, Vera, Liam Cosgrave was a man of great loyalty and kindness, who had a sharp wit, a wonderful sense of humour and strong personal dignity. Our thoughts are with his three children, Mary, Liam, who succeeded him in this House, and Ciarán. His entire life was in the service of the State as a politician, soldier and Taoiseach. He inspired so many with his quiet, showless determination, courage and fortitude. I had the honour, on occasion, to meet him and be in his presence. I was always struck by his commanding presence and great humility which in him were complementary characteristics. In my career I have been inspired by his spirit of incredible public service and, as Taoiseach, I hope to live up to his great example. He 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. Today we have lost someone great from our land. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Ar son Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil agus ar mo shon féin, déanaim comhbhrón le clanna Liam Mhic Cosgair, Mary, Liam agus Ciarán, agus le baill Pháirtí Fhine Gael. Is léir gur polaiteoir den scoth ab ea é. D'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach ar son mhuintir na tíre. Bhí sé dílis don Stát, dá chreideamh agus, go háirithe, don chóras daonlathais agus bhí sé láidir, cróga agus tuisceanach agus é ag déileáil le dúshláin mhóra le linn a shaoil.

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