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Home / News / Politicians past and present pay tribute to John Bruton

Politicians past and present pay tribute to John Bruton

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Co Meath for the State funeral of John Bruton.

Locals lined the streets to pay their respect as the former taoiseach’s funeral cortege passed through his homeplace of Dunboyne.

Politicians past and present also paid tribute to the former Fine Gael leader who died on Tuesday at the age of 76 following a long illness.

Enda Kenny, former taoiseach

Enda Kenny and John Bruton were both in their early 20s when they were first elected to the Dáil

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny knew John Bruton for 50 years.

When Mr Kenny joined the Dáil at the age of 24, John Bruton was the youngest TD there after he was elected aged 22.

“Ever after that we had a good solid professional working relationship. So I miss him. I can see his face, I hear his laugh. I know the arguments that he would make and how he would back off and say, ah sure we’ll get on with it.”

He said John Bruton was a man who was aware of his political responsibilities and that doing the right thing was always formost in his mind

“He would have loved to have had a second chance in 1997. And while Fine Gael gained seats in that election they just very short and perhaps, or economic history might have been different if John Bruton had had the opportunity to lead in the ’97 period.”

“He loved his family. He loved his politics, and he loved this country. And we’ve lost a great friend, and a great leader.

Asked what John Bruton would make of the warm tributes and the attention that a State funeral brought he said

“I would say he’d look at this and say “Well, now, they’re all there. And they’re all talking about me. I never expected this. And I didn’t want it. Because I didn’t go into politics for that purpose.”

Bertie Ahern, former taoiseach

Bertie Ahern worked with John Bruton for decades

Former taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern said he had worked with John Bruton since the 1970s and that the pair had a good working relationship

Mr Ahern said: “He had a very successful political life and of course, I followed him in the peace process and after the framework agreement and all that happened. He was a good decent guy.

“I was got on well with him. We had a friendly relationship. You know, we’re different parties and in the Dáil you normally have to kick things around but outside of it, he was a he was a decent guy, friendly guy, always would talk to you.

“He and I shared an interest in the GAA, he being Meath, me being a Dub.

“Outside of politics, we’re always able to get on well but even in politics, we were co-operated we did a lot of the Dáil reform in the early 80s.”

Asked if he agreed with the assessment that John Bruton was unlucky to be the leader of Fine Gael at a time when Bertie Ahern dominated national politics, he said politics of that era was a tough time for everyone because of the five general elections over a short period of time.

Mr Ahern added: “He got his chance in 94. I was within about 10 hours of being Taoiseach and he got it, so we enjoyed that.

“And I think he thought I’d be very upset about it, but I remember saying to him, ‘best of luck to you, John, enjoy it and I’m going to do everything I can to get you out,’ which I successfully did.”

Alan Dukes, former Fine Gael leader

Alan Dukes preceded John Bruton as leader of Fine Gael

Former Fine Gael Leader Alan Dukes said he would sadly miss John Bruton who he said he enjoyed having an argument with.

Mr Dukes said: “He was person of such great integrity was a very open mind and strong principles. They don’t often sit easily together, but for him they did.

“He was always looking for ways to understand. Robust discussion is one thing I’ve always associated with John whether you agree with him or not.

“And it was possible to disagree with him and remain friendly. A very widely read, cultured, learned person and great humour. I’ll sadly miss him I must say.”

Nora Owen, former minister for justice

Nora Owen was appointed John Bruton’s deputy in 1993

Former minister for justice and Fine Gale deputy leader Nora Owen described John Bruton as a superb politician, parliamentarian and taoiseach with whom she had a great working relationship.

She said: “I loved him dearly. He very kindly and I was honoured he appointed me his deputy leader in 1993. We often sat and talked over some of the issues.

“John found some of the social issues quite difficult to deal with. So he used to say to me Nora or you might do that interview, and I would.

“You know the issues on divorce and abortion and all that. Another of his legacies was the economy was lifting and he made sure it was and by the time we left in ’97, the next government inherited a much better country.”

Ivan Yates, former Fine Gael minister

Ivan Yates worked closely with John Bruton in the 1990s

Ivan Yates knew John Bruton for 40 years and was last in Dunboyne to celebrate a 70th birthday at the former taoiseach’s home.

Mr Yates said: “He was warm, empathetic, loyal and quite different to the public image which was often confrontational and abrasive.

“He was a man I was intensely close to in the 90s when he became leader of the party and in cabinet with him as minister for agriculture.

“There were quite a few heave’s against him in the parliamentary party, and they were they were tough.

“He was a very, very resilient man. For me on a personal level, it’s just a day of sadness. I will miss him terribly. He was a wise counsel. He was a really good friend.

“And even after both of us left politics, I just was very fond of his company, his great sense of humour. He didn’t take himself too seriously in private and he was deeply committed to his family. “

He said Dáil reform, Ireland’s corporation tax regime and his contribution to Europe were among John Bruton’s greatest legacies

Asked if he felt John Bruton’s contribution to Irish politics has been overlooked, Mr Yeats said: “I do think the younger generation don’t remember anything pre Bertie.

“But I think before the whole thing took off, the Celtic Tiger and all of that, before the crash, that did foundations were laid at that time. If anyone is interested in the career of politics in terms of constituency work, integrity and how to comport yourself, he would be a role model.”

Lucinda Creighton, former Fine Gael minister of State

Lucinda Creighton described John Bruton as a ‘giant in Irish politics’

Lucinda Creighton said John Bruton was a true Christian Democrat with a deep political philopsohy, deep sense of conviction and a huge passion for Europe.

She said his behind the scenes work on the European stage has put Ireland at the heart of the European Union.

Ms Creighton said: “He was a giant in Irish politics as I was growing up and then when I became involved in politics in university, John was party leader.

“He was incredibly supportive and encouraging of young people. Throughout my career, he’s been a kind of a mentor, somebody that I could always pick up the phone to.

“And who wouldn’t be slow to pick up the phone to me to let me know what he thought. So just a great friend, obviously, a wonderful husband and father.

“You’d really struggled to find anybody who just didn’t have very, very positive things to say about John.”

Pat Rabbitte, former Labour Party leader

Former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte shared the same birthday as John Bruton

Pat Rabbitte was in cabinet with John Bruton and on more than one 18 May they had cake at the cabinet table to celebrate sharing a birthday.

Mr Rabbitte said: “He was a man without pretension. He never went in for the baubles of politics. He was a conviction politician, a thoughtful parliamentarian.

“My overriding memory is a very decent man. He was a man that was fascinated by politics and dedicated to public service.

“In his early days, he was a very strongly ideological politician. But as chairman of the cabinet, he was fair and generous and a skilful manager of a government that was highly rated.

“And I think looking back over the last 50 years, it has been one of the better governments that we’ve had.”

Mark Durcan, former SDLP leader

Former SDLP leader Mark Durcan paid tribute to Mr Bruton’s role in the peace process

Former SDLP leader Mark Durcan said John Bruton had live interest in the North and while he was sceptical about the peace process he did much to move it forward and did not stand in its way

He said: “He was strong in his views. He was trenchant and his questions.

“He could be truculent in the points that he made. He was remarkably good humoured.

“I used to get phone calls from home on a Sunday, trying to find out what was going on going on behind the scenes. And he had very strong questions.

“He gave his own views, he gave his own thoughts and he questioned what he was being told. He didn’t take a blurb from anyone about what was going on.

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“John Bruton brought forward the framework document, later dealing with the whole vexed position around decommissioning and the start of talks.

“He was part of the twin track initiative that appointed George Mitchell, which laid down the Mitchell principles which in turn laid a path towards talks, even before we had the restored IRA ceasefire.

“And then whenever we had the restored IRA ceasefire he was very, very clear that the process had to go ahead even though he was in opposition at that stage, and he was clear that the talks process, the rules of which he and Dick Spring had helped to negotiate, should go ahead and should be allowed to work.

“John Bruton doesn’t always get the credit or the acknowledgement for his role in those key phases. He showed key judgement, at key junctures.”

Father Aidan Troy, former parish priest in Ardoyne, Belfast

Fr Aidan Troy said John Bruton would send him feedback on his sermons

Father Aidan Troy, who was based in the Ardoyne area of Belfast during the 1990s, said he had known the Bruton family a long time and was aware that John Bruton tuned in online to the masses he gave in Paris during the pandemic, often sending feedback on his sermons through family and friends.

Fr Troy added: “I thought John was a very, very great person in the sense that he wasn’t all over you. And John had his own style, as we all have our own style, but I knew he was a solid man.

“I also knew he was a great believer from the point of view of church, a very solid believer, but he never pushed that.”

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