A ‘no non­sense’ farewell to one of our great­est lead­ers

The fu­neral of Liam Cos­grave was a solemn oc­ca­sion for a solemn and re­li­gious man, writes Liam Collins

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Liam Cosgrave -

WHEN his wife Vera died late last year Liam Cos­grave rang his friend, Mon­signor John Wil­son, in Bal­ly­more Eus­tace and told him he wanted a lowkey fu­neral for his wife and for him­self when his time came: “no speeches and no non­sense”, which, the priest added, “was the type of man he was.”

It was a sen­ti­ment echoed by his son Liam T Cos­grave at the end of the fu­neral Mass for the 97-year-old for­mer Taoiseach in the Church of the An­nun­ci­a­tion in Rath­farn­ham, Dublin yes­ter­day.

“Dad wasn’t a big fan of eu­lo­gies, so I am not go­ing to do any­thing to­day to up­set him — or ye,” he told the con­gre­ga­tion and, af­ter thank­ing those in at­ten­dance and those who cared for his fa­ther, said, “as we say good­bye we are grate­ful we have had him for so long and will miss him.”

In keep­ing with his char­ac­ter, it was a sim­ple re­li­gious cer­e­mony with no frills, no sym­bols and no out­ward show of pomp for a man who was Taoiseach at one of the most dif­fi­cult times in the State’s his­tory. His un­adorned cof­fin was car­ried into the packed church by six soldiers from the Sec­ond Military Po­lice and car­ried from it by his sons Liam and Ciaran and fam­ily mem­bers, with his daugh­ter Mary fol­low­ing.

But if this was not a State fu­neral, as he had in­sisted, the arms of the State — gov­ern­ment, op­po­si­tion, ju­di­ciary and church — turned out to say a last farewell to a man born before the State, the son of the State’s first leader.

Among the mourn­ers were the last three sur­viv­ing min­is­ters to serve in his Cab­i­net, Richie Ryan, Paddy Cooney and Tom O’Don­nell. Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar was flanked in the church by for­mer taoisigh Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen, Ber­tie Ah­ern and John Bru­ton. As well as many friends, the con­gre­ga­tion in­cluded prom­i­nent fig­ures from the po­lit­i­cal and le­gal es­tab­lish­ment.

It was a solemn oc­ca­sion for a solemn and deeply re­li­gious man, en­livened only with one hu­mor­ous ref­er­ence from Mon­signor Wil­son, who said he had known Liam Cos- grave since 1965, before he be­came a priest. “We be­came friends from hunt­ing, and he didn’t catch too many mon­grel foxes ei­ther,” he said in ref­er­ence to the for­mer Fine Gael leader’s most fa­mous phrase.

“One might dis­agree with his views, but no­body would ever doubt his in­tegrity,” said Mgr Wil­son, who cel­e­brated the fu­neral mass with Fr Martin Cos­grove and Fr Michael Reynolds. He said that Liam Cos­grave “loved fam­ily, coun­try and faith; he was a pa­triot in the best sense of the word.” The fi­nal com­men­da­tion was given by Diar­muid Martin, Arch­bishop of Dublin. The only or­na­men­ta­tion was or­gan­ist Marie Cruise’s ren­di­tion of Gabriel’s Oboe (from the film The Mis­sion) dur­ing the com­mu­nion rite.

Af­ter­wards the re­mains of Liam Cos­grave were taken to Gold­en­bridge Ceme­tery in Inchicore where he was laid to rest with his fa­ther, Wil­liam T Cos­grave, his mother Louisa and his wife Vera, near a spread­ing beech tree, its leaves curl­ing rus­set with the on­set of au­tumn.

The cross atop the Cos­grave fam­ily plot looks pol­ished and new among the weath­ered old grave­stones and wrought iron-sur­rounded tombs in this cor­ner of the city. But there was a close per­sonal as­so­ci­a­tion for the fam­ily with the area, as the Cos­graves came orig­i­nally from nearby James’s Street.

In front of the ceme­tery is what re­mains of Rich­mond Bar­racks, where WT Cos­grave and many of those later ex­e­cuted were held af­ter the Easter Ris­ing. He later au­tho­rised a large part of it to be torn down and con­verted into homes for the poor of Dublin.

The rea­son for the new­ness of the Celtic cross atop the fam­ily grave is that it was van­dalised twice in the last five years. Whether this had any­thing to do with the fa­ther and son’s stead­fast be­lief in a peace­ful Repub­lic was never estab­lished.

As the hearse turned into Wil­liam Street, di­rectly across the road is Track Sports Book­mak­ers — which would have given the keen rac­ing en­thu­si­ast rea­son to smile on his fi­nal jour­ney.

Among the mourn­ers were EU Com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan and the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Dublin Micheal Mac Don­n­cha, Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail and leader of the Se­nate Jerry But­timer. The Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Labour Party leader Bren­dan Howlin, for­mer SDLP leader Sea­mus Mal­lon, and the Chan­cel­lor of the Na­tional Univer­sity of Ire­land Mau­rice Man­ning were also present.

For­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ters in­cluded Barry Des­mond, Gerry Collins, Sean Bar­rett, Mon­ica Barnes, Dessie O’Mal­ley, Mary Har­ney, Alan Dukes, Joan Bur­ton, Michael Noo­nan, Ge­orge Birm­ing­ham, Martin Mansergh, Jimmy Deeni­han, James Reilly, Nora Owen, Char­lie McCreevy, David An­drews, Pat Rab­bitte, Lucinda Creighton and Eoin Ryan.

Serv­ing min­is­ters and min­is­ters of state who at­tended in­cluded Frances Fitzger­ald, Richard Bru­ton, Si­mon Coveney, Char­lie Flana­gan, He­len McEn­tee, Sean Kyne, Mary Mitchell O’Con­nor, Si­mon Har­ris, Pas­cal Dono­hoe, Regina Do­herty, Paul Ke­hoe, Eoghan Mur­phy, John Paul Phe­lan and the gov­ern­ment chief whip Joe McHugh.

Among present and for­mer po­lit­i­cal col­leagues were Sean Haughey, Kate O’Con­nell, Paul Cogh­lan, Michael Lowry, Timmy Doo­ley, Olivia Mitchell, Tom Kitt, Gerry Reynolds, Louis Bel­ton, Brian Hayes MEP, GV Wright, Kieran O’Don­nell, Tom Hayes and Bren­dan Hal­li­gan.

The newly ap­pointed Chief Jus­tice Frank Clarke was among many prom­i­nent le­gal fig­ures, in­clud­ing John MacMe­namin and Wil­liam McKech­nie of the Supreme Court, President of the High Court Peter Kelly, and for­mer judges John L Mur­ray, Ro­nan Keane and Ali­son Lind­say.

There were 29 for­eign am­bas­sadors present, in­clud­ing Robin Bar­nett of the UK and new Pa­pal Nun­cio Arch­bishop Jude Thad­deus Okolo. Among the many friends and ad­mir­ers were Mike Burns, Sean Duig­nan, Des Peelo, Noel Dorr, Joe McGowan, Charles Lysaght, Matt Dempsey, John FitzGer­ald (son of for­mer Taoiseach Gar­ret), David Mar­ren and many oth­ers.

The sec­re­tary to the gov­ern­ment Martin Fraser and the chiefs of the Army, Air Corps, Navy and Garda Siochana also came to pay their re­spects to a man who had al­ways been a great ad­mirer of the se­cu­rity forces.

MOURN­ERS: Left, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar; Above, for­mer min­is­ters in the Cos­grave cab­i­net (from left) Pa­trick Cooney, Richie Ryan and Tom O’Don­nell; Right, For­mer Taoiseach John Bru­ton and his wife Fi­nola; Left, Min­is­ter Jimmy Deeni­han and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin at the fu­neral mass yes­ter­day. Pho­tos: Steve Humphreys and Ea­monn Far­rell

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