Just as our country has come full circle in its relationship with Britain, one of the key architects of the peace process slipped away quietly.
Garret Fitzgerald, as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the 1970s, was one of the key figures directly involved in negotiating the Sunningdale Agreement, which set up the original power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland. This was a formula which was used to establish the current assembly & governing system in Northern Ireland.
Despite the fall of the original power-sharing executive and the failure of the British Government to accept the recommendations of the New Ireland Forum, Garret was determined to progress the issue of Northern Ireland.
This lead in 1985 to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which gave the Irish government – for the first time – a direct role in Northern Ireland and was the springboard to the final resolution for conflict on the island of Ireland.
On a personal note, I first met Garret Fitzgerald during the 1982 East Galway bye-election in the village of Kiltormer. As someone who grew up during the 1980s he left an indelible mark on me, as a politician of honesty, integrity & respect and as such he was someone who I have looked up to as a politician.
I always listened to what he had to say, not always agreeing but neither could I disagree too much.
But I always respected what he had to say because there was no hidden agenda. Garret always said it as he saw it.
He wanted to do his very best for our country and its people.
Garret the good, may you rest in peace.