Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave left Ireland a better place, one of his closest friends told his funeral.

Mr Cosgrave was leader of the Republic’s Government during some of the most turbulent years of the Northern Ireland conflict and has been described as a courageous voice against terrorism.

In his public life, the late statesman was a figure of great integrity and a true patriot, Monsignor John Wilson told mourners.

Liam CosgraveLiam Cosgrave died on Wednesday at the age of 97

He said: “Liam left our country a better place as a result of his life and his life’s work.”

Mr Cosgrave died on Wednesday aged 97.

His son Liam said: “Affection, kindness, love and loyalty dad gave to us in abundance.”

Current premier Leo Varadkar and his predecessors Enda Kenny and Bertie Ahern were among those who attended the simple service at the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham in south Dublin on Saturday.

Ten military policemen had carried his remains into the church in the middle-class surroundings near where he built his political power base as part of a dynasty stretching back to the state’s foundation.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives for the funeral of Liam CosgraveTaoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives for the funeral of Liam Cosgrave (Niall Carson/PA)

Born in 1920, the Dubliner had a 40-year political career and was part of the government which saw Ireland become a Republic in 1949.

He also oversaw Ireland joining the United Nations, addressed the US Congress in 1976 and signed the Sunningdale Agreement in Northern Ireland which led to a short-lived powersharing executive in Belfast in 1972.

Attendees represented the establishment worlds of politics, the judiciary and security forces, befitting of a man dubbed the law and order Taoiseach.

His son said: “I would like to acknowledge the great support given by members of An Garda Siochana down the years to the Cosgrave family and to dad in particular.

“He was a great supporter of theirs, and they returned it tenfold.

“My father had a great affinity for the Army and it is great to see them here with him to the very end.”

Others present included former Irish premiers John Bruton and Brian Cowen, European agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan and chief justice Frank Clarke. President Michael D Higgins was represented.

It was a relatively low-key and private funeral, with few of the trappings associated with similar state occasions. The hearse carried no flowers, and there was little sign of public grief.

Mr Cosgrave said his father eschewed eulogies and he would not do anything to upset him.

He took great interest in the welfare of his grandchildren Barry and William.

His son added: “One of the last things to bring a smile to his lips was being told last Monday that William had passed his driving test at the first attempt, albeit by a short head.”

Mr Cosgrave was a devout Catholic, and family friend of 50 years Monsignor Wilson presided over the service.

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny. (Niall Carson/PA)Former taoiseach Enda Kenny. (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “Liam Cosgrave loved his family, he loved his country, he loved his faith.

“He was a patriot in the very best sense of that term.”

He said he had great humility.

“Integrity was the hallmark of his private life and his public life.”

Mr Cosgrave was buried in Goldenbridge Cemetery, Inchicore, beside his father WT Cosgrave, a key figure in the foundation of the Irish Free State and an officer in the 1916 Rising.

His wife Vera died last year.

He was Taoiseach from 1973-77. He was at the head of government on the worst day of atrocities in the Troubles – the Dublin-Monaghan bombings on May 17 1974 when loyalists killed 33 people, including a pregnant woman at full term.