What a sad coincidence that Garret FitzGerald should die today, in the midst of the historic visit to Ireland by the Queen of England.
For me, FitzGerald was the spark for my interest in Irish history and politics.
While in high school in a small Midwestern town, I read an article of the Taoiseach in an issue of Current Biography, at my local library.
In the article he discussed his work towards what became the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I wrote a letter to him, expressing support and telling him that a cousin of mine was living in Dublin for the year as an exchange student.
I was delighted to receive a sincere reply:
Office of the Taoiseach
27 February 1985
Many thanks for your letter. I enclose herewith copy of the Richard Dimbleby Lecture “Irish Identities” (duly autographed) which I delivered some years ago, for your political history collection. As you will see from the lecture it concentrates on the problem in Northern Ireland, about which I am deeply concerned.
I am delighted to hear that your cousin is enjoying her stay in Ireland and sincerely hope it will be possible for you to visit this country some day.
Garret FitzGerald TD (signed)
My first visit to Ireland was the very next spring.
Inspired, I went on to self-tailor my undergraduate studies in international relations towards everything Ireland, ultimately moving to Belfast in 1994, and I’ve been here ever since.
During my postgraduate studies at University College Dublin — where FitzGerald was Chancellor — I had the opportunity to meet and thank him in person.
His letter proudly hangs in my office.