As was remarked during the week when Garrett Fitzgerald was 52 he hadn’t even served in his first government yet, let alone been party leader and twice Taoiseach and a distinguished commentator for decades after.
Brian faced his illness with dignity and great courage and seemed resolute until the end to keep ‘fighting the good fight’. Even with death around the corner and the gale raging against, he stayed fixed to the mast of the national finances and soldiered to the bitter end. There has naturally been a lot of talk about his legacy in recent days and most have focused on his dedication, patriotism, decent and probably above all courage in the face of such extreme adversity as he battled against the storm raging both outside in the wider world and inside his own body.
In a couple of follow up blogs I will consider recent events more closely, but for now suffice to mark the passing of the man. One cannot help but wonder what might have been had Bertie given him his start earlier, and had his undoubted ability at the cabinet table in the preceding years.
His father before him was another giant of Irish politics and in many ways was hewn from the old Fianna Fáil cloth, championing independent foreign policy on causes as Palestine, double dealing with the British over commonwealth membership in return for the six counties back, advancing education through the development of the regional technical colleges, rolling back censorship a most liberal and progressive move for the time, among many other achievements. Of course Brian senior got to spend thirty years as a senior Minister, Brian junior barely got three.
The family has been beset by tragedy, as eloquently chronicled by Jonny Fallon last week, and it was in this context I was reminded of the Kennedys when I first heard the news of Brian’s passing last week. Doomed by fate and bad luck and equally poignant in promise unfulfilled, it is well documented how three Kennedys in succession attempted to take the White House, each one falling to a different fate. In a swansong to his own dreams but a rallying cry for the greater cause, Teddy Kennedy delivered the last of the Camelot speeches in 1979 when he was narrowly beaten for the democratic nomination in what he knew would be the last chance for a Kennedy ever again to take the top prize.
I think his words then are relevant now and I sign out on those lines..
“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Slán a Bhrian. Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.