Former Taoiseach John Bruton (76) died peacefully in the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, surrounded by his family, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, having battled a long illness.
First elected for Fine Gael to the Dáil in 1969 when he was aged 22, he later served as Minister for Finance in the 1980s (two terms), as well as Minister for Industry and Minister for Trade.
From Dunboyne, Co Meath, he went on to lead Fine Gael for 11 years (1990 – 2001), having served as Taoiseach between December 1994 and June 1997 as head of the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ along with Labour and Democratic Left. Between 2004 and 2009 he served as the EU’s ambassador to the US.
With profound interests in economics and politics, he graduated with a degree from UCD in 1968 before studying law and was called to the bar in 1972.
Tributes flowed for from across the political divide for the late Mr Bruton who was generally considered a ”decent’ man who always had the betterment of Ireland and its future to the core of his decision making in politics.
Former Minister for Justice, Nora Owen who served as Deputy Leader under Mr Bruton, described him as a very decent man, “a decisive man who knew what was good for the country, for the future of Ireland… and how he wanted to achieve it. He was an extra special person, and his work in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement is perhaps not recognised.”
John Bruton acted as Taoiseach during several years of the Rainbow Coalition. Those were the years of the peace process when an IRA ceasefire had been procured.
“John was crucial having worked with John Major and George Mitchell which ultimately led to peace and the Good Friday Agreement. He never believed in coercing the unionists. Despite having previous reservations about coalition governments, when Labour and Fianna Fáil broke up in December 1994, he changed his mind, gave it serious thought before joining up with Dick Spring (Labour leader) and Proinsís de Rossa of the Democratic Left. He always ensured the three sets of ministers got their say and he worked very well with Proinsís and Dick.”
In everything, Ms Owen stated the late Mr Bruton was very supporting to all his government colleagues.
He is survived by his wife Finola, daughters Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth and son Matthew, his brother and political ally, Richard, his sister Mary, the extended family and a wide circle of friends.
The late John Bruton, may he rest in peace, amen.