Garret FitzGerald

Garret FitzGerald is a former leader of Fine Gael; he was Taoiseach between 1981 and 1987.

What happened to Good Friday?

Garret FitzGerald, 2 September 1999

Last year’s Good Friday Agreement arose out of what had effectively become a stalemate in Northern Ireland. At one time the security forces had believed they could defeat the Provisional IRA, but the methods by which they sought to do so proved counter-productive. A police force drawn, for whatever reasons, from one side of the community only, and inevitably identifying with that side, could not command sufficient support, or even acceptance, on the other side to isolate and defeat a terrorist organisation like the Provisionals. And a British Army organised for warfare, and under constant attack from terrorists, could not provide the consistent, even-handed policing that would have secured and maintained the support of the section of the community from which the terrorists were drawn. This would have been difficult even had it been possible for a British government, concerned about the morale of its troops, to apply the strict discipline necessary to ensure that it operated in the same way as an impartial police force might have done.


Russell knew better

21 January 1999

I stand corrected by Keith Kyle (Letters, 4 February). My lapse of memory in relation to Bertrand Russell's views on the Soviet Union was all the more inappropriate for having been submitted to a journal published in Little Russell Street.

At the outbreak of World War One, the British Government decided to postpone Home Rule for Ireland, which had just been enacted. Despite this, many Nationalists as well as Unionists enlisted in the British Army. Some radical Nationalists came to believe that action was needed to revive national sentiment. The Easter Rising of 1916 failed, but the execution of most of its leaders, followed two years later by an attempt to impose conscription on Ireland, led to a radicalisation of Nationalist opinion. Rallying under the banner of the Sinn Féin party – founded earlier in the century by the non-violent Nationalist Arthur Griffith but from 1917 led by the senior survivor of 1916, Eamon de Valera – this new radical movement won 73 of the 105 Irish seats at Westminster in the December 1918 General Election. Assembling in Dublin on 19 January 1919, those elected members not in prison or ‘on the run’ met as Dáil Éireann – the Parliament of Ireland – declared Irish Independence and established a government, to the Presidency of which de Valera was elected in April 1919, after escaping from prison in England. Between mid-1919 and the end of 1920, however, de Valera was in the United States, seeking recognition for the Irish state and raising funds. In his absence, Griffith led the Government, which was forced to go underground after Dáil Éireann was proscribed in September 1919. In the subsequent guerrilla warfare of 1919-21 Michael Collins, the Minister for Finance and Director of Intelligence of the Volunteers or Irish Republican Army, rose to prominence.’‘

A Call to the Unionists

Garret FitzGerald, 12 March 1992

Tom Wilson’s insight as a moderate Unionist into the Northern Ireland tragedy and his critique of my involvement with these events offers useful balance to my – inevitably – somewhat different position on these matters. There are, however, some points in his review upon which I should like to comment. First, as to Sunningdale. Professor Wilson says that I do not discuss what he describes as an ‘intensification’ of the IRA’s campaign arising from that Agreement. I made no mention of this because it did not happen. The number of killings in Northern Ireland declined from 467 in 1972 to 250 in 1973 – the year of the negotiation and signature of the Agreement – and fell to 216 in the following year. The total number of shooting incidents and explosions also declined during these years in broadly similar proportions. And in each six-month period from mid-1973 to mid-1975 the number of killings remained around the one hundred level – lower than in any other half-year during the 1972-6 quinquennium. Moreover the drop in IRA killings between 1973 and 1974 was significantly greater than the decline in the total number of deaths by violence, and this reduction in IRA violence persisted into 1975, when killings by other groups rose quite sharply.

Can we have our money back?

Garret FitzGerald, 24 October 1991

The subtitle of this book is ‘The Anglo-Irish Settlement and its Undoing 1912-1973’. But the great bulk of the book is devoted to the settlement itself – the Treaty of 1921, its background and its immediate aftermath. By contrast, the section on the undoing of the settlement is relatively brief: indeed, the period from the declaration of a republic in 1949 to the fall of Stormont in 1972 is dealt with by way of an epilogue of ten short pages, and even the treatment of the earlier events of 1948-49 is relatively cursory. That is a criticism, however, of the description of the book rather than of the book itself. The account of the course of events between 1912 and 1925 which it contains lives up to the expectations aroused by the late Professor Mansergh’s eminence in this field of history, and though one might have wished for a fuller treatment of the subsequent half-century, what he has to say of this aftermath contains much that is thought-provoking and acute.’

Talking about Northern Ireland

Tom Wilson, 27 February 1992

It has often been said that the Irish tragedy can be ended only by political means. In this political autobiography, Dr Garret FitzGerald gives a fascinating account of his own attempts to...

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