Tributes have poured in to statesman and politician Dr Garret Fitzgerald who has died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

The former Irish Prime Minister and Fine Gael leader had spent the last fortnight in a Dublin hospital after contracting pneumonia.

Twice elected leader of the Irish parliament, Dr Fitzgerald was pre-deceased by his wife Joan and is survived by his three children Mark, John and Mary and 10 grandchildren.

Dr Fitzgerald is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s foremost leaders and played a huge rule in the early stages of the peace process when he signed the Anglo-Ireland agreement with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1985.

First elected to the Irish Senate in 1965, he entered parliament in 1969 and served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1973 to 1977.

A noted economist and academic, Dr Fitzgerald led the Fine Gael party from 1977 to 1987 and twice served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister), first from 1981 to February 1982 and then from November 1982 to 1987.

President Mary McAleese led the tributes to Dr Fitzgerald after his death on Thursday morning.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Dr FitzGerald, a man who lived his life with total integrity, unrelenting purpose and an unquenchable concern for the welfare of Ireland and its citizens,” she said.

“As a public representative in the Seanad and Dáil, Garret was a persuasive voice for progressive reform; as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he anchored Ireland’s place at the heart of Europe and enhanced our national reputation in the world; and, as Taoiseach, he courageously led the debate for a more tolerant and inclusive Ireland.

“His crowning achievement in politics was his negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which was a key milestone on the road to peace and partnership politics in Northern Ireland.”
Current Prime Minister and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was also wholesome in his praise of his predecessor in both roles.

“Garret Fitzgerald was a unique figure who made a truly remarkable contribution to Ireland,” said Kenny. “His towering intellect, enthusiasm for life and optimism for politics mean he will be missed by everyone, especially Fine Gael.

“A true Republican and an icon of decency in public life, Garret Fitzgerald was also a man of humility, generosity and warmth.

“He would have been very happy to hear the words of her Majesty on the state visit on Wednesday night. He had an eternal optimism for what could be achieved through politics.”