Some of us gathered at the Mansion House to pay our respects to Garret. A number of things struck me. First, the mix of people, in age and geographical mix. There were some who said that Garret was very much just a representative of Dublin Four, but looking through the names and addresses in the book of condolences, it was very apparent that the Irish were coming from far and wide to say goodbye. This was saying farewell to a man for the people.
Looking at him in that open casket, I was, and am always struck at funerals, at how an enormous life (and his was) is always reduced to an almost too small box. Garret was not a small man physically, but there was something very humbling about seeing him this way. One almost felt that he deserved something equal to the huge man he was. Certainly, I’ve seen lesser men laid to rest in far more grandiose caskets. But then, so vast was his contribution, perhaps the fact that we all know it is enough, and the true mark of greatness.
Finally, let me mention the laughter. We met outside the Mansion House, all of us political, none of us Fine Gael, and everyone of us had a Garret story, and we laughed. Even now, such a short time after his passing, he sounds like an almost mythical character. How could an intellectual and at times eccentric man like that, a man who believed in rules and ethics and all the things that we as a people regard as faintly odd have ended up not just a national figure but as the leader of the Irish people? Was it because we recognised in Garret, if just for a moment, the heights we could reach and the people we could be if only we’d let ourselves?