Former Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald appealed to Ronald Reagan’s sense of Irish history and neighborly pride to help broker the ground-breaking Anglo-Irish agreement.
The inaugural Garret FitzGerald Summer School in Killarney heard how the FitzGeralds and the Reagans came from the same parish in south Tipperary.
The Irish Times reports that Garret’s son Mark told the Summer School how the ancestral links between the two families helped to sway British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to back the agreement.
He said: “Mr Reagan’s huge help to Ireland in that period, in the run-up to 1985 and the signing of the agreement, was not fully appreciated.”
Mark revealed how the FitzGeralds from Skeheenarinky and the Regans from Ballyporeen came from the same hillside.
“The families lived “3½ miles apart in south Tipperary, and the FitzGeralds and the Reagans had actually been godparents at each other’s christenings,” he revealed.
The paper reports that Dr FitzGerald’s grandfather, Patrick FitzGerald, a laborer, emigrated to London in the 1850s or 1860s, while Mr Reagan’s great-grandfather had also left for London around this time, and afterwards went to the US.
Dr FitzGerald’s father, Desmond, Minister for External Affairs in the first Irish government after independence, was born in London.
Mark Fitzgerald added: “It is not widely known how influential Mr Reagan had been in working on my father’s and Ireland’s behalf in persuading Margaret Thatcher, then British prime minister, to come around to the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
“There were regular telephone calls and consultations between my father and Mr Reagan to help bring about the agreement, which laid the foundations for the Belfast Agreement 13 years later.
“Reagan was a huge help to us in persuading Thatcher to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement. She’d agree to anything Reagan wanted. He helped Ireland in a big way.”
Speaking at the event organized by Young Fine Gael, Mark FitzGerald added: “Garret loved young people, he loved Fine Gael and loved politics but what would Garret say if he were here today?
“He would say the most important thing in politics is to have common high standards, while embracing different views. He would say challenge people, be curious. He always said don’t complain – do something.”
Source: The Irish Times.