Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD has paid tribute to former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave who has died.
“It is forty years this year since Liam Cosgrave left frontline politics following the 1977 general election and his relatively low profile since then means that his extraordinary career has often been somewhat overlooked. This is very unfair as, by any standard, his was a quite remarkable tenure in our public life.
“Until today, he was the last Taoiseach to be born prior to the foundation of the state. It is also extraordinary to think that a member of the 1948 inter-party government, formed almost 70 years ago, was still with us until today.
“As the son of W.T. Cosgrave he was quite literally born into our public life and in his lifespan he lived the history of independent Ireland. First elected to Leinster House in 1943, he sat beside his father on the Dáil benches. When Fine Gael came to office in 1948 he was Chief Whip (or Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach as it then was) and also served as Minister for External Affairs in the 1950’s where he saw Ireland’s application to join the United Nations come to fruition.
“He led Fine Gael for twelve years from 1965 to 1977 – the last four of them as Taoiseach. With the Troubles in Northern Ireland erupting during that time these were amongst the most turbulent years in our history as an independent state. Throughout all those years he showed real grit, resilience and determination both in opposition and in government.
“Whilst he did not lead Ireland into the European Community, he became Taoiseach a couple of months after our accession and proved more than capable in this new challenge for the country. In 1975, Ireland held the presidency of the Community for the first time and it was a notable success under his stewardship.
“He will be remembered as a fair and principled man who conducted the business of government efficiently.
“His lengthy retirement since he left the Dáil in 1981 has been marked by a quiet dignity. He never sought to re-impose himself in the public consciousness. Instead he returned to family life with his wife Vera who sadly also passed away last year.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to his children Mary, Liam and Ciaran. I also offer my sympathy to the Fine Gael party on the loss of their elder statesman.”