Former Irish PM John Bruton hailed as ‘humbling and unassuming’ at funeral | Ireland

The former Irish taoiseach John Bruton has been described as a “humbling and unassuming” man at his state funeral, attended by senior political figures including the president, Michael D Higgins, and the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

Ministers, TDs and parliamentary ushers were among those who attended the service at Saints Peter and Paul’s church in Bruton’s home town of Dunboyne, County Meath.

The former taoisigh Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, the Northern Ireland first minister, Michelle O’Neill, and the deputy first minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, were among those in attendance to remember Bruton, who served as taoiseach in the mid-1990s.

A small crowd gathered at a big screen outside the church to watch the funeral. Full state funeral honours were accorded to Bruton, with Irish soldiers carrying his coffin out of the church before it was taken on a gun carriage to Rooske Cemetery where military honours were to be given at the graveside.

Bruton’s wife, Finola, and son Matthew accompany his coffin as it leaves the church. Photograph: Reuters

Soldiers dressed Bruton’s coffin at the family home before the removal mass on Friday.

Bruton was taoiseach of the “rainbow coalition” government between 1994 and 1997, overseeing 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.

Bruton, 76, died on Tuesday surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Finola, his children, Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, his grandchildren, his younger brother, the former government minister Richard Bruton, who read a prayer of the faithful during the funeral, and their sister, Mary Bruton, who spoke to thank friends for their kindness during the family’s grief.

Bruton died surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness. Photograph: Reuters

In the homily, Father Bruce Bradley described 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.”

Bruton’s daughter 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.

(L-R) Michelle O’Neill, the first minister, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, former taoiseach Enda Kenny and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

The bishop of Meath, Tom Deenihan, said Saints Peter and Paul’s church had been important to Bruton, and they had met at Sunday masses.

“Faith was important to him and the Christian ideal,” 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 cooperation, 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.”

The bishop said the praise given to Bruton since his death that he was “a decent man” was “the supreme accolade in rural Ireland”.

Several senior political figures were seen conversing in the aftermath of the funeral mass. Ahern spoke with Mark Durkan, the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, and Little-Pengelly expressed her condolences to Bruton’s widow, Finola.

The Ukrainian ambassador, Larysa Gerasko, and the US ambassador, Claire Cronin, also attended the funeral.

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