Garret FitzGerald, 85, a beloved figure who as Ireland's prime minister in the 1980s was an early architect for peace in neighboring Northern Ireland, died Thursday of a respiratory illness in a Dublin hospital.

Flags were lowered to half-staff as politicians of all parties paid tribute to Mr. FitzGerald as a man of integrity and vision.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, on the third day of her visit to Ireland, hailed Mr. FitzGerald as "a true statesman" who had "made a lasting contribution to peace."

Mr. FitzGerald, former leader of Ireland's perennial No. 2 party, Fine Gael, lived just long enough to see Fine Gael finally overtake its old rival, Fianna Fail, to claim first place in a national election this year for the first time.

His closest political colleagues said he was deeply heartened to see this week's first-ever trip to Dublin by the queen, a crowning event of the Northern Ireland peace process that he did much to promote during his two terms in office between 1981 and 1987. - AP