Lots of people with a better way with words have already said their piece about Garret Fitzgerald and said it well. I would have first seen him on the back of a lorry in the square in Killorglin around the time of the 1981 election campaign. I remember wearing one of the cardboard hats that were made from flat cardboard but had a series of spiral cuts that allowed them to turn into baseballs type hats. We should try to revive those, they were fun! The slogan was simply “I’m with Garret”, and giddy teenager that I was at the time I believed in it 100%. There was, if I’m being completely honest, probably a small degree of blind hero worship and almost like being a Duranie rather than a Spandau Ballet fan that the other crowd were wrong in part just cos they were the other crowd but that was never the whole of it.
I’ve seen the phrase used time and time again over the last few years, when someone is discussing some point about an issue of the day and with reference to an article or comment made on air, they would say “I’m with Garret on this one”. And even when I might have disagreed with the conclusion, I recognised that in people being willing to say “I’m with Garret” was laid bare his core strength as a public figure.
It was that he convinced you, or me and others at least, by force of argument that what he believed in, he believe because the facts and logic and common sense made his conclusions the right ones. Not that you were expected to simply take his word for it, but that if you looked at the cold hard facts and applied reason and logic that you too would reach the same conclusions and he invited, no, he demanded that you do this for yourself. No blind loyalty for him, you had a responsibility to work through the argument and reach what you could then see for yourself was the correct conclusion. He wanted you to find the conclusion with him, and then join with him. It was that faith in common sense and rational debate that shaped almost entirely my approach to politics, and to what points I will argue on and why. I wouldn’t be a member of Fine Gael without Garret Fitzgerald. I probably won’t have become interested in politics at all, if it was just about personality cults and not about ideas, and debate and rationality.
Even though he is no longer with us, I’m still glad to be able to think that I once was, am still and will always be someone who can say I’m with Garret.