Former taoiseach John Bruton remembered for ‘sensitivity and generous approach’

John Bruton said Mr McGuinnes was "a very friendly person and easy to talk to”
Former taoiseach John Bruton

Former taoiseach John Bruton, who has died aged 76, has been remembered for bringing a “particular sensitivity and a generous approach” to the peace process.

President Michael D Higgins, who served alongside the former Fine Gael leader in the Dáil and in cabinet, described him as a “deeply committed politician”.

Born in Dublin in 1947, Mr Bruton was first elected as a TD for Meath aged 22.

He led Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001, serving as taoiseach at the head of the rainbow coalition that also included Labour and Democratic Left, from 1994 to 1997.

He was instrumental in the emerging peace process, alongside then British prime minister John Major. Together the pair launched 1995′s Anglo-Irish Framework Document.

After stepping back from frontline politics he was appointed as the EU Ambassador to the United States in 2004.

In a statement, his family said he died in the Mater Hospital in Dublin early on Tuesday.

“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,” President Higgins said.

“His contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process during his time as taoiseach was very significant.”

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Michael D Higgins said John Bruton's contribution to the peace process was very significant. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA (Niall Carson/PA)

The president said Mr Bruton “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,” he said.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly together expressed their sympathy to the family of the former taoiseach.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said she was sorry to hear of the former Fine Gael leader’s passing, while Ms Little-Pengelly described him as a “much-respected politician whose career spanned many decades”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his predecessor was “one of the reasons I became involved in politics”.

“He was always encouraging and supportive on a personal level, from my time in Young Fine Gael to my time as taoiseach,” he said.

“We kept in touch and his knowledge and experience were particularly helpful during Brexit and during coalition negotiations.”

In regards to the north, the Fine Gael leader said Mr Bruton “strongly opposed violence as a means to advance political objectives”.

He said he “believed in unity through consent”.

“He made a particular effort to reach out to the unionist community,” he said.

“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.”

Sir John Major said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr Bruton’s death, describing him as a “formidable servant of the Irish nation and of peace”.

“He was a brave and talented taoiseach who contributed mightily to the early days of the peace process,” he said.