Off the fence
Garret Fitzgerald inspired me from an early age. His integrity, his obvious sincerity and his deep belief in public service convinced me, that despite the occasional exceptions, politics is, and ought to be, a noble profession. Dr Fitzgerald always epitomised high standards in high places.
In three particular spheres, he made remarkable progress. The signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement was one of the highlights of his career and set this island on a journey towards peace. Indeed, it is a sad irony that the Queen’s historic visit to our shores last ween was made possible by the actions of Garret Fitzgerald in 1985.
His vision and courage marked him out from the rest. His foresight, in making mainstream the concept of consent in Northern politics was inspired. His commitment to democracy as espoused by the Anglo Irish Agreement showed he was ahead of his time. Unlike the many who did not subscribe to his consensus view regarding Northern Ireland, Dr FitzGerald came from a family steeped in the republican tradition. Because of that he knew and understood the importance of consensus rather than division.
His commitment to the European Union inspired my own passion for the European project. It was an honour and a privilege to work with him during the Nice and Lisbon referenda. During both campaigns his sharp intellect, combined with his polite courtesy, won many arguments.
Dr Fitzgerald was a first-class academic and intellectual. However, his skills beyond those abilities were remarkable. When he became leader of Fine Gael, he set out to make the party ‘the most professionally organised party on the island’ and achieved this goal. He was much more than an academic. He knew the Fine Gael organisation inside out. Indeed, he was to be found tallying votes in the RDS last February.
It is a great honour for me to sit in the constituency that Dr Fitzgerald once represented.
He was a true and inspirational statesman, a true political leader and someone I was very proud to know and call a friend.
Lucinda Creighton, Minister of State for European Affairs, is a native of Claremorris.