Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Death of a Gentle Man


Opening the papers early this morning (well, flipping open the MacBook) I read with great sadness of the death of the one-time Irish Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald. To be honest I had not realised that he was still alive, but he had lived to the very respectable age of eighty-five, and had passed away earlier this day. I was saddened, not just because Mr. FitzGerald was a wise and reconciling politician eager to gently lead the politics of the Republic of Ireland out of the clutch of the Roman Catholic Church and into a more modern, pluralist way of national life; it was also because a few of us had a brief and unscheduled encounter with him in 1984.

A group of us in our middle year of training for the priesthood at Salisbury and Wells Theological College were on a lengthy tour of Ireland, both the Republic and the North. We were spending time in Leinster House, Dublin (where both the Dail and Seanad √Čireann, the Lower and Upper Houses of the Irish Parliament) are to be found. Three of us had become separated from the main group and found ourselves in a rather grand room with many tables and artifacts. A man entered who looked somewhat familiar, and he smiled, asking us to introduce ourselves. That we did, and then we realised that we were talking to the Taoiseach himself. Not merely talking, but he found someone to bring a tray of coffee and biscuits, and we all sat around at one of those enormous tables for at least a quarter of an hour. He excused himself saying that he had to go and meet with ... and here I forget the title, but it was someone who sounded extremely important.

Rest in peace, Taoiseach. And thank you for your time, Memories such as those are rarely made these days.

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