Absent-minded Irish PM laid ground for Nth Ireland peace

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Garret FitzGerald, who has died aged 85, served twice as Irish prime minister. He helped set the stage for peace in Northern Ireland and shifted the tone of Ireland's relations with the UK.

Former president Mary Robinson struck the national mood when she said, "There'll be a sadness way beyond the political." FitzGerald, who was prime minister in the 1980s, died just as British-Irish relations broke new ground with a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

FitzGerald was recognised as a shrewd, nuts-and-bolts economist but he was also perceived as sort of an absent-minded professor, given to making memorable remarks. He once said of an idea, "That's fine in practice, but will it work in theory?"

On the campaign trail, a press photographer once noticed that he was wearing unmatched shoes, a sartorial blunder that only increased his popularity.

Also serving as foreign minister in the 1970s, he belonged to the centre-right Fine Gael party. He became its leader in 1977 and took over as prime minister in 1981, leading a short-lived coalition with Labour that showed what The Irish Times called its inexperience. The government fell because of a proposal to tax clothes and children's shoes.

The coalition lost power in early 1982 but regained it later that year in a new pact with Labour. Cooperation with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher helped the governments in London and Dublin propel the feuding Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland to reach the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

From then on, Irish leaders worked closely with British officials towards peace in Northern Ireland.

FULL OBITUARY: Garret FitzGerald, Ex-Irish Premier, Dies at 85 (New York Times)

LINKS:
Wikipedia

Garret FitzGerald – How He Got The Big One So Wrong (Blog - The Broken Elbow
A View of the World from New York and Belfast)

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