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Tributes to Liam Cosgrave, described as a 'giant of Irish politics'

Former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who has died at the age of 97. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
By Press Association Reporters

LIAM Cosgrave has been remembered as a "giant of Irish politics", as tributes continued to pour in for the former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader.

Flags were lowered across all state buildings across the Republic yesterday as a mark of respect following his death, aged 97.

Mr Cosgrave was taoiseach from 1973 to 1977 and was part of the government which declared Ireland a Republic in 1949. He also oversaw Ireland joining the United Nations and addressed the Joint Houses of US Congress in 1976.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar led the tributes describing Mr Cosgrave as "someone who devoted his life to public service".

"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 said.

"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'."

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Cosgrave was "committed to serving the people of Ireland with all his energy, intellect, as well as passion".

During his 40-year political career, Mr Cosgrave led the government during some of the most turbulent years of the Troubles and consistently opposed violence.

The signing of the Sunningdale Agreement in Northern Ireland features among his achievements, albeit that six months later a loyalist workers' strike brought down the institutions in Belfast.

He was regarded as having a good relationship with unionist leader Brian Faulkner, who introduced internment but became central to the powersharing deal.

As taoiseach he was also deeply conscious of the potential for mass evacuations of nationalists from Northern Ireland. In 1975 he ordered ministers to make contingency plans for 50,000 refugees fleeing south of the border to escape the deepening sectarian violence.

Mr Cosgrave was taoiseach on the worst single day of atrocities in the Troubles - the Dublin-Monaghan bombings on May 17 1974 when loyalists set off four bombs with no warning, killing 33 people, including a pregnant woman at full term.

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald also paid tribute to Mr Cosgrave, whom she said 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".

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin praised Mr Cosgrave's "extraordinary career" and said "his was a quite remarkable tenure in our public life".

Former president Mary McAleese said Mr Cosgrave "had such pride in Ireland and the coming generations", while former taoiseach Enda Kenny said he "he was a person who had an extraordinary interest in people. He kept that interest long after he left politics".

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, praised Mr Cosgrave for not shirking away from making "important and challenging decisions which demanded decisive political, economic and moral leadership".

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams extended his condolences, while SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Cosgrave had "a remarkable life which witnessed the birth of the Republic and worked to keep it secure".

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