Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave dies at 97

Liam Cosgrave

Former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Liam Cosgrave has died at the age of 97. A family member confirmed the death this evening.

He died after a long illness.

Liam Cosgrave was first elected to the Dáil at the age of 23. When only 28 in 1948, he became the first ever Chief Whip in a coalition government.

At the age of 36, as Minister for External Affairs and following the removal of the Soviet veto, he led Ireland into the United Nations in 1956.

In 1965, he became Leader of Fine Gael. In 1973, he became Taoiseach in a coalition government with the Labour Party. He was Taoiseach for a total of four years, until Fianna Fáil swept back into power in 1977. He stepped out of politics at 57.

Mr Cosgrave and his late wife Vera had three children. Vera Cosgrave died last year.

President Higgins has expressed his sympathies to the late Mr Cosgrave.

"I have learned with great sadness of the death of Liam Cosgrave, former Taoiseach, Minister, party leader, and valuable member of the Council of State.

"Liam Cosgrave will be remembered not only as an effective Cabinet Ministerbut as a Taoiseach with the capacity to win and secure the stability of a multi-party coalition.

"Among his most memorable achievements was that as Minister for External Affairs, when Ireland's entry into the United Nations in 1955 was secured, and during which time Liam Cosgrave 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.

Liam Cosgrave pictured at The Gathering at Basin Lane in 2013. Mr Cosgrave's father attended CBS James's Street.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Mr Cosgrave's death.

“As Taoiseach and as Leader of Fine Gael I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

“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.

“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',” the Taoiseach said.

'Government is never easy'

Speaking in 2014, Mr Cosgrave wished then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny well in running the country and warned that being in government is never easy.

The former Fine Gael leader was speaking as he donated the papers of his father, WT Cosgrave, to the Royal Irish Academy.

The documents, including personal letters and photographs, were included in a biography of WT Cosgrave, who was the first president of the executive council, the first prime minister of Ireland.

Asked what advice he had for Enda Kenny as the current Taoiseach heads into the last quarter of this Dáil, Mr Cosgrave replied:

“I wish him well. Other than that, I wouldn’t offer him any advice.”

He added: “Government is never easy. We had a lot of subversive activity and events that created a lot of unnecessary hardship. We tried to resist it as vigorously as we could and effectively as we could.”

The Prince of Wales speaks to former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald at Glencairn House in May this year. Picture: PA

Former Taoiseach John Bruton said: "He was a pioneer in many ways…and gave great service to this state in extremely difficult times.

"In private and in public, he was the same... self effacing, modest and kind. He was authentic in every way."

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said, "He had a long distinguished career in politics, following in the footsteps of his father W.T. Cosgrave.

"As Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael, he led the party through a successful coalition with Labour from 1973-1977.

"He was revered among Fine Gael politicians and supporters across Ireland and held in high esteem by those who witnessed his incredible contribution to Irish political life. He will be greatly missed by us all."

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