Garret Fitzgerald’s glasses // 1984 – 2011

A sad day for all spectacle wearers.

So today I arrived into work to read the news that Garret Fitzgerald, Ireland’s 7th Taoiseach, had died. Reports surfaced two weeks that he was gravely ill, but the news will still have come as a shock to a lot of people, young and old.

Being brought up into a Fine Gael family and because he became Taoiseach in the year I was born, I’ve always had a real soft spot for him.

To most, Fitzgerald will be remembered as the leader of two Fine Gael governments in the 1980s, a true statesman, an advocate for better relationships between Ireland and the UK and one of the few truly credible blueshirt leaders of the last 40 years.

In recent years he had became one of the highlights of any Irish election or referendum. Whatever the hour of the day he’d invariably end up on TV3′s Vincent Browne program or in the RTE studio putting university economists and political scientists to shame with his succinct, idiot-proof arguments. And when he wasn’t on TV you could find him in the RDS keeping an eye on the latest tallies.

There will be lots of eulogies and tributes paid over the next few days, but I’m going to go slightly left-field and pay homage to his spectacles. Yes. Weird. I know.

There aren’t many people who wore glasses with as much confidence, class and panache as Garret. Some are a bold fashion statement, some emphasise function over form.

From what I can work out (I like to think not many people have spent time thinking about these things…) he started using reading glasses in the late 1970s and then gradually began wearing specs all the time in later life.

Here are 21 highlights from a brilliantly bespectacled career…

1984 - Makes his debut as Taoiseach wearing this fetching pair of plastic frames.

1984 - Having worked the '83 Ard Fheis san-lunettes, he sports this pair of lighter framed glasses the following year. Presumably to make sure he got a good tight grip on Ireland's future.

1985 - Signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement with Meryl Streep. British foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe did his best to upstage our Garret. But he failed.

1985 - Clearer detail on Fitzgerald's ruby-tinted frames. Meryl doesn't know what to say.

1986 - Garret and his glasses forced to pose with a chancer. Not for the first, or last time in his illustrious career. New lord mayor of Dublin Bertie Aherne knows his career will end up in a cupboard.

1986 - Heavyweight glasses contest. The Taoiseach faces up to the spectaclar challenge from Tanaiste Dick Spring. Eventually disqualified for moustachular reasons.

1989 - Canvassing prior to the General Election. Wonder could he *see* Fine Gael's new leader Alan Dukes failing to beat Charlie Haughey. Boom boom.

1991 - John Bruton: I have 20/20 vision and no need for specs. // Garrett: I have a new book out and history will consider me a better FG leader than you. // John Bruton: Oh. But eh. Well, I can get right to the bottom of the chart in the opticians...Hah!

1999 - As chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Fitzgerald got up a good view of people like Kofi Annan as he helped them become pretend 'doctors' and 'lawyers'.

2000 - John Bruton: You were right about me as Taoiseach. Not as easy as it looks keeping Fianna Fail out.... // Garret: Mwahaha. More tea J.B.?

2001 - Fitzgerald's 75th birthday. Pictured here with two of his granddaughters in a classic 'media making old guy look wacky' pose.

2003 - Wearing a fetching pair of sophisticated steel rimmed specs, FitzGerald celebrates with granddaughter Reachbha. He'd just been awarded the Hon Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) at the University of Ulster. Hooray, another wacky hat.

2005 - Back to the plastic frames. Much lighter. Why is Anjelica Huston here?

2008 - Along with one of the only other Irish politicians you wouldn't be embarrassed to introduce to your parents, Mary Robinson. She's not even wearing her glasses out of respect.

c. 2008 - Aren't we getting swanky? Modern small metal frames. Accentuating the eyes and giving emphasis to the chekbone structure.

2009 - Peering out at two other former Taoisigh, Albert Reynolds and Liam Cosgrave, at the 90th anniversary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann.

2009 - Getting a closer look at the election poster for his father's 1932 election campaign. Desmond Fitzgerald was Ireland's first minister for external affairs following the 1922 treaty. He did not provide super-vision for his son.

2009 - Doing the maths at the count for the second Lisbon treaty. Distinct need for large glasses.

2010 - Appearing in the TG4 documentary - 'Cé A Chónaigh I Mo Theachsa?'. Big specs + bad-ass walking stick = r.e.s.p.e.c.t.

2011 - Keeping watch as Fine Gael FINALLY get into power again.About bloomin' time.

2011 - Prime Time Investigates that tie.

images taken from rte.ie, thejournal.ie, irish times, broadsheet.ie, university of ulster and tilefilms.ie.

Related posts:

  1. Thoughts from afar – St. Patrick’s Day 2011
  2. Deca’dant… so what’s wrong with these pictures?
  3. February 2nd 2010. A sad day.
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2 Responses to Garret Fitzgerald’s glasses // 1984 – 2011

  1. Niall says:

    Two wonderful tidbits…he left his glasses in make up about 2 mins before vincent started one day, so i dashed out and saved the day with a quick wipe of the filthy heavy framed magnifying frames and they were on him happily from the top of the show.

    Tidbit 2; his grand-daughter got him that tie for Christmas and he wore it publicly all 2011 “so she won’t kill me for not wearing if she’s watching”

    Wonderful man R.I.P.

  2. wheatln2 says:

    a brush with greatness! thanks for the anecdotes jacko.