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State Funeral as former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald dies

Thousands of mourners pay their respects as pioneer of Northern Ireland peace process is laid to rest.

Thousands of mourners pay their respects as pioneer of Northern Ireland peace process is laid to rest.

The Irish politician, economist and journalist died on 19 May 2011 in a Dublin hospital aged 85 after a short illness.

Known as "Garret the Good" by colleagues and opponents alike because of his humility and integrity, Dr FitzGerald served twice as Taoiseach -Ireland’s Prime Minister- in the 1980s.

Dr FitzGerald's finest achievement in politics was his negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 with former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. A key milestone in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, it gave the Republic of Ireland a formal say in the governance of Northern Ireland and culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Ireland's best-known economist before entering politics, Dr FitzGerald became Taoiseach in 1981 when Ireland was suffering from recession. In a background of double-digit unemployment and high emigration, he took unpopular decisions and was punished for it in the polls.

As a part of his quest to modernise Ireland's economy and society, he pushed to reform State-Church relations. Facing strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, he failed to win his referendums to liberalise contraception and legalise divorce. However, Dr FitzGerald is credited with liberalising Ireland and secularising the Irish Republic.

A strong pro-European, he was also one of the first Irish politicians to see the European Union as a counterweight to the British overwhelming economic influence over Ireland. A fluent French speaker, highly regarded in European political circles, he was considered to be the most cosmopolitan Taoiseach Ireland has ever had.

Dr FitzGerald retired from politics in 1992 but he continued to play an active role in public life right up to his death.

Flags were lowered to half staff as thousands of mourners and politicians of all parties paid tribute to the former Taoiseach at the Mansion House in Dublin. Dr FitzGerald was laid to rest with full military honours at Shanganagh cemetery in south County Dublin. He is survived by his sons, John and Mark, and his daughter, Mary.

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