Tom O'Donnell leads tributes in Limerick to 'political hero' Liam Cosgrave

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Limerick captain Éamonn Grimes lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup back in 1973, watched by Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, far right Picture: Sportsfile

Limerick captain Éamonn Grimes lifts the Liam McCarthy Cup back in 1973, watched by Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, far right Picture: Connolly Collection/Sportsfile

FORMER Minister for the Gaeltacht and Limerick TD Tom O’Donnell has led local tributes this week to former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who sadly passed away.

A book of condolences was opened at City Hall in memory of Mr Cosgrave, who was the longest-lived Taoiseach, aged 97 at his death.

”He was my political hero,” Mr O’Donnell told the Limerick Leader, “And he was my very dear friend. It was my privilege and pleasure to serve under his leadership as a backbench TD, frontbench spokesman and cabinet minister from 1965 to 1977. Liam will be remembered for his lifetime of dedicated public service to the nation.”

Mr Cosgrave was Taoiseach between 1973 and 1977, and Mr O’Donnell, who also served on the opposition frontbench alongside the Dublin TD said: “He was a very friendly, kindly man, who placed implicit trust in his ministers and allowed them to get on with their job. But he was always available when his advice was sought and always willing to advise and help.”

The former Taoiseach was a special guest at Mr O’Donnell’s 21st anniversary of being elected to the Dail, at a celebration event in Cruises Hotel.

He also officially cut the ribbon at the Wyeth factory in Askeaton, and opened the Moyross estate of Cosgrave Park – named after his father, another ex-Taoiseach WT Cosgrave – in 1977.

In the first year of his premiership in 1973, he was on the steps of  the Hogan Stand at Croke Park to witness Eamonn Grimes lift the Liam McCarthy cup for Limerick.

“Liam Cosgrave was a gentleman, a patriot and an outstanding Taoiseach. He was an outstanding man who gave distinguished service to his country, and a fearless defender of the security of the state,” he said.

Rose Doherty, who has lived in Cosgrave Park for 42 years, remembers fondly the day the Taoiseach visited.

Speaking to Live95FM, she said: “He was a lovely person, he gave us the greatest praise. We were all delighted. I can still see that man standing on the square speaking to us. He was so proud, as if he lived in Cosgrave Park himself. He said he wanted to thank us all for calling tyhis place Cosgrave. You could see his face was beaming, he was so happy.”

Mayor Stephen Keary, who opened the book of condolence for the late Mr Cosgrave, was also present at the opening, as he was working in Moyross as a site engineer at the time.

He said: “Liam Cosgrave was an inspirational man who lived a long and full life, attending sporting and state events until recent times.

“It was particularly fitting that he witnessed last year’s centenary celebrations commemorating the 1916 rising.”

Mr Cosgrave was also remembered in Ardnacrusha this week, after his life-time association with the power station.

As a youngster, he was present at the official opening of the power station in 1929 when his father was Taoiseach, and he returned to the village in 1977 to mark the ESB’s 50th anniversary.

John Leonard, a former vice-chairman of Fine Gael’s Limerick East constituency, described Cosgrave as: “the quintessential Christian Irish politician”.

”You knew you were talking to history when you met him – his DNA goes back to the foundation of the state,” he said.

The Corbally man recalled how Mr Cosgrave in the 1960s gave £20 to the local Fine Gae church gatel collection, noting “it was a lot of money then”.

“Before entering the church, he commended me on my dedication to the party. This made my day,” Mr Leonard added.

Former Finance Minister Michael Noonan said: “His leadership proved to be admirable. As time went by, his strengths in his role as Taoiseach became more apparent – the way he dealt with Northern Ireland, the Troubles, and spill over of those difficulties into the South.”