It was strangely fitting in a way that Garret Fitzgerald departed this life during the Queen’s visit to Ireland this week. For this emblematic occasion, characterised as it was by reconciliation, mutual respect and serious reflection on the history of the relationship between Britain and Ireland, was, in a sense, the culmination of a process which he was instrumental in initiating and promoting. From the preparatory work which led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, through the subsequent years of frustration, setbacks and crass errors by governments and security agencies, he held firm to the vision of a pluralist, tolerant Ireland, looking outwards towards Europe, and seeking creative solutions to the conflicts within Northern Ireland.
Some of his enterprises were attended by little success, or none. But his main achievement was to bear witness to a politics which did not need to be a matter of competing negativities, but could be a civilised and intelligent dialogue among thinking people.
Rest in peace, just man. You’ve earned it.