Advocate For Peace Former Taoiseach John Bruton Remembered With Fulsome Tributes Upon His Passing

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Tributes are pouring in for former Taoiseach John Bruton, who’s died at the age of 76.

President Michael D. Higgins has led those tributes to the former Fine Gael leader, saying it was a “great privilege” to serve as a TD with him, describing him as “very energetic‘”.

Friendly“, “likeable“, “detailed” and “patriotic“. Some of the words describing John Bruton, who has died after a long illness.

He led the Rainbow Coalition from 1994 to 1997. He campaigned rigorously for the end of violence in the North, even extending an olive to Sinn Féin leader at the time Gerry Adams.

Current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described him as a ‘philosopher‘ who was very ‘pro-Europe‘.

During his government, he often reached out to the Unionist community in the North, while his government also established the Criminal Assets Bureau following the death of Veronica Guerin.

He’s survived by his wife, four children, grandchildren, his brother Richard and sister Mary.

Today they issued a statement:

“It is with deep sadness we wish to announce the death of former Taoiseach John Bruton.

“He died peacefully in the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, surrounded by his loving family, early this morning following a long illness.

“He was a good husband, a good father and a true patriot.

“We will miss him greatly.

“John is survived by his wife, Finola, son Matthew and daughters; Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, grandchildren, sons-in-law, his brother, Richard and sister, Mary, nieces, nephews, many cousins and extended family.”

President Michael D. Higgins, himself a former cabinet colleague of the late Taoiseach, said he was a ‘man bristling with ideas.”

It is with sadness that I have learned of the death of Council of State member and former Taoiseach, John Bruton.

May I send my deepest sympathies to John’s wife Finola, to his children Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, and to all of his family.

It was a privilege to serve as a member of Dáil Éireann and of Cabinet with John and, in particular, when he served as a very energetic Taoiseach from 1994 to 1997.

John Bruton was a deeply committed politician, who demonstrated a life-long interest and engagement in public affairs and public service both in Ireland and internationally.

His contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process during his time as Taoiseach was very significant. In this work, he brought a particular sensitivity and a generous approach to inclusion with regard to the perspective of the ‘Other’.

Together with John Major, his overseeing of the development of the Joint Framework Document in 1995 was a pivotal foundation for the Good Friday Agreement.

It was a mark of John Bruton’s interest in politics that while his term as Taoiseach included an emphasis on the local, and in particular the ongoing issues with regard to Northern Ireland, he was always a strongly committed promoter of politics in the European Union.

This was reflected in his ongoing work in support of European integration throughout the period following his term as Taoiseach. In his role as Ambassador of the European Union to the United States from 2004 to 2009, he helped to further build the definition of that role during what was at times a challenging period in relations between the EU and the United States.

Very open and forthright in his opinions, John had a great sense of humour which was a great help in ensuring a sense of collegiality and that small issues would never be allowed to defeat what was important in relation to the things that mattered most.

Always bristling with ideas, and occasionally demonstrating an impatience with the difficulties of implementation, those of us who worked with John, be it in Government or in Opposition, will recall the energy which he brought to the different parts of politics. This continued in John’s many contributions to the public debate in the years following his departure from office and, in all of his roles, was something which I always very much welcomed and found very refreshing.

Our most recent contact was in relation to the recent considerations of the Council of State, which he sought to attend right to the end.

While we were conscious, and would occasionally remind each other both in Government and in the years after, of an ideological gap between us, our conversations nearly always ended with the very particular deep laugh which all of us who knew him will immediately recall.

John will be remembered with great warmth and his contributions to the public debate greatly missed.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his sadness at the news today:

This morning, I was devasted to learn that John Bruton had passed away. John was one of the reasons I became involved in politics and joined Fine Gael.

He was always encouraging and supportive on a personal level, from my time in Young Fine Gael to my time as Taoiseach. We kept in touch and his knowledge and experience were particularly helpful during Brexit and during coalition negotiations.

We last spoke just before Christmas when he was unable to attend the Council of State due to his illness. I spoke to his wife Finola and brother Richard this morning to pass on my condolences.

John was doer and a philosopher. He was passionately pro-European in Government and in Opposition, and was well-liked and respected among colleagues in Europe and in the European People’s Party in which he served as Vice-President. He knew that Ireland’s place and destiny was at the heart of Europe and made the case for it eloquently.

On the North, he strongly opposed violence as a means to advance political objectives and believed in unity through consent. He made a particular effort to reach out to the Unionist community. He advocated a new patriotism and opposed narrow nationalism. While these views are now held by the majority of people, that was not always the case and he was willing to lead, even when it meant going against the grain

John believed in an enterprise economy and responsible management of the public finances. I am convinced that the decisions made by the ‘Rainbow’ Government which he led from 1994 to 1997, comprising Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left, laid the foundation for much of the economic prosperity we have enjoyed since.

A believer in individual rights and responsibilities and social justice, John was born from the Christian Democratic tradition of European and Irish politics. He was conservative but always compassionate and caring. He played a crucial role in the Divorce Referendum of 1995 in convincing middle-ground voters to vote Yes in what was a very tight referendum. Above all, I believe John Bruton possessed real dignity and imbued compassion and patriotism. The whole Fine Gael family mourns his loss, and he will always be remembered for his service to our Party and to the Irish State.”

John Bruton represented the constituency and county of Meath for many decades. One of his successors holding the Fine Gael party’s seat in the Royal county is Helen McEntee.

John Bruton was an honest, fair, and gifted person who contributed immensely to Ireland, Europe and the world throughout a half-century of political leadership.

Thousands of people in County Meath and beyond will mourn a completely genuine person, who devoted his life to his family and to improving our country and our world

John Bruton was a reforming and honourable Taoiseach, a courageous Minister for Finance, an imaginative Minister for Industry and EU Ambassador to the United States, a hardworking Fine Gael Leader, and a hugely effective Meath TD for 35 years.

John was a proud father, husband, son, sibling, and cousin. He was a generous neighbour and a devout Catholic.

Like many others who benefitted from his wisdom, I will always be grateful for his extensive knowledge, his open-mindedness, his consistency, and his unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.

I offer my sympathy to Finola, his son Matthew and daughters; Juliana, Emily, and Mary-Elizabeth, and to John’s wider family and neighbours in Dunboyne. May he rest in peace.”

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has extended her sympathies on the passing of former Taoiseach John Bruton.  Ms. McDonald said:

I wish to extend sympathies to the family, friends and Fine Gael colleagues of former Taoiseach John Bruton.

“John gave many decades of service to the State and to his party. I extend, on behalf of Sinn Féin, my condolences.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

As Taoiseach he was instrumental in working with British prime minister Sir John Major to launch the Anglo-Irish Framework Document in 1995, which proposed new relations between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK.

Sir John said: “I was shocked to learn of the loss of John Bruton.

He was a brave and talented taoiseach who contributed mightily to the early days of the peace process.

In testing circumstances, he put peace above political self-interest to progress the path towards the end of violence.

He was a formidable servant of the Irish nation and of peace, and I am deeply saddened at his passing.”

Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, referred to Mr Bruton as a “gentlemen” who, as prime minister, “reached out to unionists to try and gain a better understanding of our position and to encourage practical cooperation“.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” he wrote on X.

Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill also sent condolences to Mr Bruton’s family while speaking in the Assembly.

I want to pass on my condolences to the family of former taoiseach John Bruton, who we’ve just been notified has sadly passed away,” she said.

To his family and friends, we send them our condolences at this very sad time.”