Many of the things he fought for during his time in office in the turbulent 1980s have since come to pass.
He was, in time, able to see his visions come to fruition, with divorce finally ratified in an October 1995 referendum, and later with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
President Mary McAleese said as much in her remarks following his passing, calling him "the Renaissance man of our time. His thoughtful writing, distinctive voice and probing intellect all combined to make him one of our national treasures. Above all, Garret FitzGerald was a true public servant. Steeped in the history of the State, he constantly strove to make Ireland a better place for all its people," she said.
FitzGerald died at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin on Wednesday, May 18 at the age of 85, following a short illness. FitzGerald was predeceased by his wife Joan, and is survived by his sons John and Mark and daughter Mary.
His body lay in state at the Mansion House the Saturday before his state funeral the next day at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook and burial at Shanganagh Cemetery.
The former Fine Gael leader served as Taoiseach twice, from 1981 to 1982, and later from late 1982 to 1987.
The life of FitzGerald's parents would shape his own political outlook later in life, especially regarding the North, and how the republic needed to change socially and constitutionally so that unionists would not feel as threatened by the prospect of a united Ireland.
His father, Desmond FitzGerald, was born in London, England, the son of parents from County Kerry. During Gaelic League classes in London Desmond, a civil service clerk and poet, had met Mabel McConnell, the daughter of a Belfast distiller.
He joined in with the Easter Rising of 1916, and was sent to Maidstone Prison, chained up to Eamon de Valera. In the election of 1918, Desmond was elected as an MP, and in 1922 became Minister for External Affairs.
Garret Michael Desmond FitzGerald was born in Dublin on February 9, 1926. He was educated at St. Brigid's School in Bray, County Wicklow, Coláiste na Rinne, a Gaelic-language boarding school in County Waterford, then by the Jesuits at Dublin's Belvedere College.
FitzGerald met his wife Joan O'Farrell at University College Dublin (UCD), and they went on to have three children together. At UCD, FitzGerald studied French and History. He qualified as a barrister but never practiced law.
FitzGerald joined Aer Lingus as an administrative assistant in 1947. During his school days, FitzGerald had made friends with one Declan Costello who would go on to publish the Fine Gael manifesto Towards A Just Society. In 1965, Costello urged FitzGerald to run for public office, and he won a seat in the Irish Senate.
In the June 1969 general election, FitzGerald won a seat in Dublin South East, becoming the party's shadow education critic, before becoming the finance critic in 1971. The next year, he campaigned in favour of Ireland's entry into the European Economic Community, as the European Union was then known.
When Fine Gael broke through in the 1973 election, they formed a coalition with the Labour Party, and FitzGerald was appointed to his father's old post of foreign affairs.
In an obituary of FitzGerald, Chris Moncrieff of the Press Association, published in The Independent, wrote that FitzGerald "was, unlike probably every other leading politician of his generation, a man completely without guile and cunning. Even his severest critics - and there were plenty - invariable prefaced their tirades against him by conceding that he was quite the nicest man in Irish politics. He was described as possessing all the legendary Irish charm, but without the blarney which usually goes with it."
John Murray Brown, writing in the Financial Times agreed that FitzGerald was known as "Garret the Good because of his decency, kindliness and integrity at a time when politics was often characterized by cronyism and the 'men in mohair suits,' he was an unusual politician. He sometimes seemed a lovable but bumbling professor."
FitzGerald was also well known to the electorate for his forgetfulness. He was called a "goody two shoes," by his long-time rival, Fianna Fail leader Charles Haughey, not because he thought him as a keener, but rather because FitzGerald once appeared in public wearing one brown shoe and one black.
His sometimes dotty memory would end up hurting him politically. In 1989, FitzGerald took Haughey, then Taoiseach again, to task for accepting a necklace for his wife from a Saudi Arabian prince. But FitzGerald was then unable to recall the whereabouts of a painting by Salvador Dali that had been given to him in 1985 while on a visit to Spain. The picture later turned up in the dusty FitzGerald family attic.
The Irish Foreign Affairs portfolio was a difficult brief in the 1970s. Despite high points such as becoming president of the EEC Council of Ministers in 1975, he also had to grapple with The Troubles. He worked diligently with his British counterparts and others to hammer out the Sunningdale agreement, which temporarily gave Northern Ireland its own government. This deal collapsed following the Ulster worker's strike.
By 1977, Cosgrave was out of office, and FitzGerald was elected, unopposed, as Fine Gael's new leader. In December of 1979, Jack Lynch resigned as Taoiseach, and was replaced as Fianna Fail leader by Charlie Haughey.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 10 January 2012 08:17)