Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave dies age 97
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave has died in Dublin at the age of 97.
Mr Cosgrave, who led a successful Fine Gael-Labour Coalition from 1973 until 1977, was the son of the first head of government of the Irish Free State, WT Cosgrave.
Father and son, who had a very close relationship, dominated Irish political life for the first six decades of this State’s existence, as both government leaders and leaders of the opposition.
His passing ends a very personal link with the very difficult birth of the Irish State in 1922 which was followed by wholesale IRA destruction and murders met by brutal government reprisal killings.
The former Taoiseach is chiefly remembered as a staunch defender of Irish constitutional nationalism against serious subversive threats from IRA and other paramilitary violence through the 1970s.
His government took a hardline anti-terrorist stance as worsening violence in the North threatened to spill into the Republic during a very troubled decade.
He also privately confronted the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch in 1970 with his knowledge of government ministers’ involvement in importing arms for the IRA.
This incident led to a major constitutional crisis. These aspects of his career mirrored that of his father, WT Cosgrave, a senior commander in the 1916 Easter Rising.
As first head of the Irish Free State he had faced down IRA factions who rejected the Treaty with Britain in 1923 with the aftermath of the bitter Civil War and its aftermath continued for a decade.
Liam Cosgrave was also a tough leader of Fine Gael through their fractious wilderness years until they finally managed to break Fianna Fáil’s long monopoly on power in a landmark election victory in February 1973.
But his new partnership “National Coalition” with then-Labour leader, Brendan Corish, was hit by a major oil crisis in autumn 1973 as the Middle East oil-producing nations hiked prices and reduced supply.
Inflation went into a spiral and soon the Government was very unpopular.
An ill-judged early general election called for June 1977 led to a record landslide win for Fianna Fáil, under Jack Lynch, who had promised huge benefits to voters.
Days later Liam Cosgrave, aged just 57, stepped down down from the leadership of Fine Gael to be succeeded by Dr Garret FitzGerald
Thereafter he did not contest his Dáil seat in Dún Laoghaire in the 1981 general election, ending a career as a TD which had begun in 1943. There followed a long retirement during which he led a very private but active life, indulging his passion for horse-riding, attending horse race meetings, and following a wide range of other sports, especially hurling.
Prior to his death he had been in Tallaght Hospital for several months. Illnesss caused him to miss his first All Ireland Finals since the early 1930s as his passion for horse racing was matched by his love for hurling.
He shared his love of horses with his wife, Vera Osborne, who came from a well-known Kildare family of horse owners. He and Vera, six years his junior, married in 1952 and she died in September of 2016
Mr Cosgrave is survived by his daughter, Mary, sons Liam and Ciarán, grandchildren and his extended family.