Some years ago, when Ciaran Lawlor was auditor of the Literary & Historical Society, I was asked if I’d like to deliver a paper to the society. I, of course, said yes and used the opportunity to speak pretty forcefully (there are those who will say crazily) about the need for the EU to be an active (military) force for good in the world, because no-one else would do it.
One of the respondents, the one who cut me right down to size, was Garret FitzGerald (who served as a vice-president of the society) who very sadly passed away this week.
Garret may have destroyed many of my arguments with considerable eloquence but he was also the one who before and after I delivered the paper was full of amazing stories and funny lines about his various adventures, and when he spoke of them, they did sound like adventures. He had no sense of superiority about him and engaged with everyone as equals.
I felt honoured then and I feel even more honoured now. More than that though I feel lucky, lucky that I have lived in a state that was home to such a man, that I had the fortune to meet and speak with him and had the opportunity to experience a firm intellectual drubbing (good for the soul) from him. I feel lucky to have lived in a time when his leadership was a force for such good in the country.
There’s just no replacing Garret FitzGerald. We are, as a nation, impoverished by his passing.