Mod­esty put Cos­graves in a league of their own

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

HIS­TO­RI­ANS may ar­gue about whether Liam Cos­grave was a safe pair of hands or a cun­ning op­er­a­tor who pre­served the se­cu­rity of the State dur­ing the Trou­bles.

But per­haps what was just as im­pres­sive about the late Taoiseach were his sim­ple tastes, which are wholly at odds with what we have come to ac­cept from lead­ers to­day. Mr Cos­grave’s mod­est home – a bun­ga­low in Dublin’s Rath­farn­ham – comes as a sur­prise to any­one who sees it, while his fu­neral yes­ter­day lacked the usual pomp and cer­e­mony due to de­ceased lead­ers.

He may have in­her­ited his mod­esty from his fa­ther WT Cos­grave, who was scrupu­lous about sav­ing the pub­lic purse un­nec­es­sary ex­pen­di­ture. When WT left high of­fice in 1932, ac­cord­ing to his son he walked away ‘with­out a pen­sion… or with­out gra­tu­ity or sev­er­ance pay… Most of his col­leagues, like him­self, had lit­tle and some of them had noth­ing. They had no oc­cu­pa­tion’.

Like­wise, when WT died he was given a State fu­neral but his fam­ily met the ex­penses. Liam in­sisted on pay­ing, say­ing years later: ‘What­ever the cost was, it didn’t fall on the State. He wouldn’t have coun­te­nanced any­thing like be­ing buried at pub­lic ex­pense.’

WT Cos­grave died in 1965, his son this week. Their down-to-earth val­ues and in­sis­tence on pay­ing their way rather than bur­den the State fi­nan­cially casts them as hon­ourable men of a dis­tant by­gone time.

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