Former Irish premier John Bruton, who helped pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement, has been remembered as a ‘humbling and unassuming’ man at his full state funeral.
Mr Bruton, who was taoiseach of the ‘rainbow coalition’ government between 1994 and 1997, died on Tuesday aged 76 surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness.
Senior political figures including President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were joined by ministers, TDs and parliamentary ushers for the service at Saints Peter and Paul’s Church in Mr Bruton’s hometown of Dunboyne, Co Meath.
Michelle O’Neill, who became Northern Ireland‘s first-ever nationalist first minister last Saturday, and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly were also in attendance to remember the man who served as the leader of Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001.
A small crowd gathered at a big screen outside the church to watch the funeral.
John Bruton, who was taoiseach of the ‘rainbow coalition’ government between 1994 and 1997, died on Tuesday aged 76
The state funeral was held at Saints Peter and Paul’s Church in Mr Bruton’s hometown of Dunboyne, Co Meath
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ireland’s former premier John Bruton. It was draped in the Irish flag
Full state funeral honours were accorded to Mr Bruton, with Irish soldiers carrying his coffin out of the church before it was carried on a gun carriage to Rooske Cemetery where full military honours will be given at the graveside.
Soldiers dressed Mr Bruton’s coffin at the family home ahead of the removal mass on Friday.
Mr Bruton oversaw a referendum that would legalise divorce in Ireland and contributing to the Northern Ireland peace process through the launch of the Anglo-Irish Framework document.
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald were also in attendance for the state funeral.
Mr Bruton is survived by his wife Finola, his children Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, and his grandchildren and his younger brother, former government minister Richard Bruton, who read a prayer of the faithful during the funeral.
Their sister Mary Bruton spoke to thank friends for their kindness during the family’s grief.
In the homily, Father Bruce Bradley described Mr Bruton as ‘an exceptionally good man’.
‘John was honest and honourable, patient and persevering, courageous and committed, ‘willing to lead even when it meant going against the grain’, as the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said, humble and unassuming, a man of integrity and truth.’
John Bruton’s wife Finola Bruton (right) and daughter Mary Elizabeth Bruton as the coffin arrives
Mr Bruton oversaw a referendum that would legalise divorce in Ireland and contributing to the Northern Ireland peace process through the launch of the Anglo-Irish Framework document
Michelle O’Neill (right), who became Northern Ireland’s first-ever nationalist first minister last Saturday, and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly (second right) were also in attendance. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) was also there
Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar and President Michael D. Higgins attend the State Funeral
A man holds an order of service at the state funeral of former taoiseach John Bruton at Saints Peter’s and Paul’s Church
Mr Bruton’s daughters Emily Bruton Iniekio read the poem Death Is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland, while her sister Mary-Elizabeth Bruton gave the second reading.
Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said Saints Peter and Paul’s Church had been important to Mr Bruton, and they had met at Sunday masses.
‘Faith was important to him and the Christian ideal,’ Bishop Deenihan said, adding that aspects of the late taoiseach’s religious beliefs ‘informed his political thinking’.
‘He was not, and rightly so, an advocate of a theocracy but was, in the best sense of the term, a Christian democrat.
‘The Christian principles of co-operation, dialogue, equity and respect – central to the teachings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount – are also evidenced in his work in relation to Northern Ireland and Europe.’
Ireland’s former Prime Minister Enda Kenny attends the state funeral of former Prime Minister John Bruton
The coffin of former taoiseach John Bruton is carried on a gun carriage following his state funeral service
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern (left) and Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, arrive for the state funeral
As Taoiseach, John Bruton launched the Anglo-Irish ‘Framework Document’ in 1995 with Sir John Major (pictured together in Downing Street)
Mr Bruton with his budget package as minister for finance in 1982
Mr Bruton with Bill Clinton in the White House in the 1990s
The bishop said the praise given to Mr Bruton since his death that he was ‘a decent man’ is ‘the supreme accolade in rural Ireland’.
Several senior political figures were seen conversing in the aftermath of the funeral mass, including Mr Ahern speaking with the former NI deputy first minister Mark Durkan, and Ms Little-Pengelly expressing her condolences to Mr Bruton’s widow, Finola.
Ukrainian ambassador Larysa Gerasko and US ambassador Claire Cronin were also in attendance at the funeral.