Speaking following the announcement of the death of former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:
I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of the former Taoiseach and leader of my party, Liam Cosgrave. 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’.
Born in 1920, in the middle of the War of Independence, Liam provided a powerful link back to the foundation of the State. His father, W.T. Cosgrave, helped create many of our institutions, and defended them when they were in jeopardy, and his son shared the same values and approach to public life. He joined the army during the second world war when volunteers were needed, reaching the rank of lieutenant, and he brought the same spirit of civic responsibility to his political career.
An internationally respected statesman, Liam Cosgrave was part of the government which declared Ireland a Republic in 1949, and as Minister for External Affairs he oversaw Ireland joining the United Nations. As Taoiseach he was invited to address the Joint Houses of Congress in the United States in 1976, a notable honour, and one which enabled him to make some powerful points about how a democratic state should derive its power from the consent of the governed.
Consistently opposed to the use of violence, Liam Cosgrave was a courageous voice against terrorism, and protected the State in times of crisis. As Taoiseach he played an important role in the Sunningdale Agreement, which helped pave the way for the later agreements culminating in the Good Friday Agreement and peace on this island.
A man of conscience and principle, Liam Cosgrave joined Fine Gael at the age of seventeen, was a TD for almost forty years, and leader of the party for twelve. His time as Taoiseach between 1973 and 1977 will be remembered for Sunningdale, the qualities he brought in leading a successful coalition government, and his courageous defence of the state against threats internal and external.
Predeceased by his beloved wife Vera, Liam was a man of great loyalty and kindness, a wonderful sense of humour, and strong personal dignity. His entire life was in the service of the State, and he inspired so many with his quiet determination, courage and fortitude. Our thoughts today are particularly with his three children, Mary, Liam and Ciaran.
I had the honour on a few occasions to meet and be in the presence of Liam Cosgrave, and I was always struck by his commanding presence and great humility, which in him were complementary characteristics. In my own career I have been inspired by his spirit of incredible public service and as Taoiseach I hope to live up to his great example.
Liam Cosgrave is perhaps best summed up by paraphrasing one of his most famous speeches: he was a man of integrity who, totally disregarding self-interest, always served the nation. Today we have lost a Statesman and a great man.
D'fhéadfadh Dia trócaire ar a anam. Ni bheidh a leithéid ann arís.