Paddy Harte on Garret FitzGerald and Declan Costello
Within these recent weeks, we have seen the death of Declan Costello, the author of Fine Gael’s Just Society, and of Garret FitzGerald, its most prominent political proponent. In a letter in today’s Irish Times, Paddy Harte, Fine Gael TD in Donegal from 1961 to 1997, remembers his time with both, and how he convinced Garret to be ambitious for the leadership of the party after the retirement of Costello, in a sort of Leo–Bartlet moment,
We must get back to Declan, he told me. I did not agree, and told Garret that we must start looking elsewhere for a new leader. “Who?” asked Garret, to which I replied, “You”. Garret said, “How many votes would I get in the party tonight?” I replied, “One, however the vote will not be taken tonight, and tomorrow is a new day. Declan is a clear-thinking lawyer and he has made up his mind. When the party needs a new leader you will have to be ready”.
Garret was the unanimous choice when Liam Cosgrave retired in 1977.
The Just Society was, of course, a document written nearly fifty years ago, and those mindful of the positive influence they had on the party would pay tribute best by seeking to start again with reference to their broad principles than any direct emulation. But we should be sure that despite their deaths, their influence remains, however much or little of specific policy we carry forward.