Former taoiseach John Bruton dies following long illness

Fine Gael politician (76) led Rainbow Coalition government from December 1994 to June 1997

Former taoiseach John Bruton has died following a long illness. He was 76.

Mr Bruton, who was the Fine Gael leader from 1990 to 2001, headed the Rainbow Coalition government, which also involved Labour and Democratic Left, between December 1994 and June 1997.

He was not returned to power in 1997, when Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil won the first of three straight general elections, but stayed on as party leader for almost four years.

He was succeeded as Fine Gael leader by Michael Noonan after losing a confidence vote in January 2001.


The former Meath TD went on to serve as the EU’s ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2009.

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were among those who paid tribute to Mr Bruton following the news of his death on Tuesday.

First elected to the Dáil aged 22 in 1969, Mr Bruton held a number of ministries – including the finance, public service and industry portfolios – while Garret FitzGerald was taoiseach during the 1980s.

During his time as minister for finance, Mr Bruton presided over the infamous budget decision in 1982 to impose VAT on clothing and footwear. He decided to change the rate for those items from zero to 18 per cent – including for children’s items. The vote on the budget was lost by 82-81.

The government fell because some key independent supporters, notably Limerick socialist TD Jim Kemmy, decided not to offer their support.

Mr Bruton was the deputy leader of Fine Gael from 1987 to 1990, serving under Alan Dukes.

A statement from the Bruton family, released by Fine Gael on Tuesday, said: “It is with deep sadness we wish to announce the death of former Taoiseach John Bruton.

“He died peacefully in the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, surrounded by his loving family, early this morning following a long illness.

“He was a good husband, a good father and a true patriot.

“We will miss him greatly.

“John is survived by his wife, Finola, son Matthew and daughters; Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, grandchildren, sons-in-law, his brother, Richard and sister, Mary, nieces, nephews, many cousins and extended family.”

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