Tributes paid to former Irish PM Liam Cosgrave who dies aged 97

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who has died at the age of 97. Picture: PA
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who has died at the age of 97. Picture: PA
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Tributes have been paid to one of Ireland’s most respected statesmen, Liam Cosgrave, who has died aged 97.

Mr Cosgrave was taoiseach from 1973 to 1977 and was part of the government which declared Ireland a Republic in 1949.

He also oversaw Ireland joining the United Nations and addressed the Joint Houses of US Congress in 1976.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar led expressions of sympathy and tributes.

“Liam Cosgrave was someone who devoted his life to public service; a grateful country thanks and honours him for that and for always putting the nation first,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Throughout his life he worked to protect and defend the democratic institutions of our state, and showed great courage and determination in doing so.

“He always believed in peaceful co-operation as the only way of achieving a genuine union between 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’.”

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said UN membership was one of Mr Cosgrave’s most memorable achievements and gave shape to Ireland’s independent voice on the global stage.

“His words on that occasion that Ireland should work to ‘take our place in the comity of nations and do our part to secure what small nations have always required, the maintenance of peace’ remains to this day an important reminder of our nation’s role and unique voice on global issues such as disarmament, peacekeeping, human rights and development,” President Higgins said.

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“Liam Cosgrave was committed to serving the people of Ireland with all of his energy, intellect as well as passion.

“In retirement, he loved to be among the people, be it at state occasions or sporting events and it is fitting that we pay tribute to his significant contribution to Ireland.”

Mr Cosgrave is survived by his three children Mary, Liam and Ciaran.

Political figures from the past and present are expected to add further tributes throughout the day, including around the Dail parliament and Leinster House where Mr Cosgrave’s portrait hangs.

He was born in 1920, the son of WT Cosgrave, who was a key figure in the foundation of the Irish Free State and an officer in the 1916 Rising.

Mr Cosgrave went on to follow in his father’s footsteps with a 40 year political career and was regarded as an internationally respected statesman.

He consistently opposed violence.

In an Irish context the Sunningdale agreement in Northern Ireland looms large in his achievements, albeit that six months after it was signed a loyalist workers’ strike brought down the institutions in Belfast.

He was regarded as having a good relationship with unionist leader Brian Faulkner, who introduced internment but became central to the power-sharing deal.

Mr Cosgrave led the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government in the 1970s which ended 16 years of Fianna Fail domination.