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John Bruton


In office
15 December 1994 – 26 June 1997
President Mary Robinson
Tánaiste Dick Spring
Preceded by Albert Reynolds
Succeeded by Bertie Ahern

In office
24 November 2004 – October 2009
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Günter Burghardt

In office
14 February 1986 – 10 March 1987
Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald
Preceded by Alan Dukes
Succeeded by Ray MacSharry
In office
30 June 1981 – 9 March 1982
Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald
Preceded by Gene Fitzgerald
Succeeded by Ray MacSharry

In office
13 December 1983 – 14 February 1986
Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald
Preceded by Garret FitzGerald
Succeeded by Michael Noonan

Born 18 May 1947 (1947-05-18) (age 62)
Dunboyne, Ireland
Political party Fine Gael
Spouse(s) Finola Bruton
Children 4
Alma mater University College Dublin
Profession Former Barrister
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

John Gerard Bruton (born 18 May 1947) served as Taoiseach of Ireland from 1994 to 1997. A minister under two taoisigh, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald, Bruton held a number of the top posts in Irish government, including Minister for Finance (1981–1982 and 1986–1987), and Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (1983–1986). He became leader of Fine Gael in 1990 and served as Taoiseach from 1994 until 1997, leading the Rainbow Coalition government of Fine GaelLabour PartyDemocratic Left.

Bruton was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a TD for Meath in 1969, and served continuously until his retirement from domestic politics in 2004. He served as the Ambassador of the European Union to the United States from 2004–2009, and is a former Vice-President of the European People's Party (EPP).

Contents

Early and personal life

John Gerard Bruton was born to a wealthy, Catholic[1] farming family in Dunboyne, County Meath and educated at Clongowes Wood College.

Oliver Coogan notes in his Politics and War in Meath 1913-23 that Bruton's granduncle was one of the farmers in south Meath who prevented the traditionally Anglo-Irish ascendency hunt from proceeding in the area during the Irish War of Independence.

Bruton later went on to study at University College Dublin where he received an honours Bachelor of Arts degree and qualified as a barrister from King's Inns, but never went on to practice law. Bruton was narrowly elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1969 general election as a Fine Gael TD.[2] At the age of 22 he was the fourth youngest ever member of the Dáil up to that point. He more than doubled his vote in the general election of 1973, which brought Fine Gael to power as part of the National Coalition with the Labour Party. Bruton was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry & Commerce and to the Minister for Education, by the National Coalition in 1973. He remained in office until 1977.

He is married to Finola Bruton and has 4 children.

Shadow cabinet and in government

Following Fine Gael's defeat in the 1977 general election, Bruton was appointed to the new front bench as Spokesperson on Agriculture by its new leader, Garret FitzGerald. He was later promoted to the shadow Finance portfolio, making a particular effective speech in the Dáil in response to the budget of 1980. He played a prominent role in Fine Gael's campaign in the 1981 general election which resulted in another coalition with the Labour Party and with FitzGerald as Taoiseach. Bruton received a huge personal vote in Meath, and at the age of only 34 was appointed Minister for Finance, the most senior position in the Cabinet. The new government had to abandon its election promises to cut taxes in the light of overwhelming economic realities. The government collapsed unexpectedly on the night of 27 January 1982 when Bruton's controversial Budget was defeated in the Dáil. The previously supportive Independent Socialist TD, Jim Kemmy, voted against the Budget, which proposed among other things the introduction of VAT on children's shoes, thus causing the Dáil to be dissolved and Fine Gael to lose power.

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First leadership bid

The minority Fianna Fáil government which followed only lasted until November 1982 when Fine Gael once again returned to power in a coalition government with the Labour Party but when the new government was formed Bruton was moved from Finance to become Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce & Tourism. The following year (1983) the Trade and Tourism portfolios were removed from his brief. A 1986 Cabinet re-shuffle saw Bruton return as Minister for Finance. Although he was Minister for Finance, Bruton never presented his Budget. The Labour Party withdrew from the government due to a disagreement over his budget proposals leading to the collapse of the government and another election.

Following the 1987 general election Fine Gael suffered a heavy defeat. Garret FitzGerald resigned as leader immediately, and a leadership contest ensued between Alan Dukes, Peter Barry and Bruton himself. The exact result of the vote was not published.[3] This was a severe blow as the victor, Dukes, was, like Bruton, one of the younger generation of politicians (albeit a couple of years older than Bruton) but had been a TD for 12 years fewer. Bruton was of Fine Gael's Christian Democrat tradition, whereas Dukes was in FitzGerald's Social Democratic mould. Dukes was perceived to be a lacklustre leader however, who alienated his party's TDs and made little progress in recovering the ground lost by Fine Gael in 1987. The disastrous performance in the 1990 presidential election in which the party finished a humiliating and unprecedented third in a national election,[4] proved to be the final straw for the party and Dukes forced to resign as leader shortly after.[5] Bruton, who was the deputy-leader of Fine Gael at the time, was unopposed in the ensuing leadership election.

Leadership of Fine Gael

Whereas Dukes came from the left wing of Fine Gael, Bruton came from the more conservative wing. However to the surprise of critics and of conservatives, in his first policy initiative he called for a referendum on a Constitutional amendment permitting the enactment of legislation allowing for divorce in Ireland.

Fine Gael had been in decline for nearly a decade; from the highpoint of the November 1982 general election when it achieved 70 seats in Dáil Éireann, only five seats short of Fianna Fáil's total[6] the party had lost a considerable number of seats. Following the inexperienced Dukes' disastrous period of leadership, Bruton's election was seen as offering Fine Gael a chance to rebuild under a far more politically experienced leader. However Bruton's perceived right wing persona and his rural background was used against him by critics and particularly by the media.

By the 1992 general election, the anti-Fianna Fáil mood in the country produced a major swing to the opposition, but that support went to Labour, not Bruton's Fine Gael, which actually lost a further 10 seats. To the astonishment of many the electorate and most of the media, who had voted for or backed the Labour Party to get Fianna Fáil out of power, the Labour Party chose to enter into a new coalition with Fianna Fáil. It was a humiliating blow to Bruton. Fine Gael, and Bruton personally, continued to perform poorly in opinion polls throughout 1993 and early 1994 and Bruton narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership in early 1994. However a couple of by-election victories, and a good performance in the 1994 European Elections, coupled with a disastrous showing by the Labour Party, shored up his position. When in late 1994 the government collapsed, Bruton was able to form a government with the Labour Party and Democratic Left, a small left-wing party. Bruton faced charges of hypocrisy for agreeing to enter government with Democratic Left, as Fine Gael campaigned in the 1992 General Election on a promise not to enter government with the party. Nevertheless, on 15 December, aged 47, Bruton became the then youngest ever Taoiseach.

Taoiseach 1994–1997

Bruton's politics were markedly different from most Irish leaders. Whereas most leaders had come from or identified with the independence movement Sinn Féin (in its 1917-22 phase), Bruton identified more with the more moderate Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) tradition that Sinn Féin had eclipsed in the 1918 general election. He hung a picture of his political hero, the IPP's leader John Redmond on a wall in his office as Taoiseach, in preference to other figures like Patrick Pearse. But as evidence of Bruton's complexity, he also kept a picture of former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Seán Lemass which had been hung there by Reynolds, and which Bruton kept because he viewed Lemass as the best and most reforming Taoiseach in the history of the state.

Bruton's Rainbow Coalition was generally perceived to be a good government, with Bruton, who was meant to have had a bad relationship with Tánaiste Dick Spring, being seen as its star performer.[7] His popularity soared while he and Spring (along with Proinsias De Rossa, leader of Democratic Left) were seen as an effective team. Constitutional reform was also on the government's agenda when a referendum to abolish the prohibition on divorce was passed by a narrow majority.

Continued developments in the Northern Ireland peace process and his attitude to Anglo-Irish relations came to define Bruton's tenure as Taoiseach. In February 1995 he launched the Anglo-Irish ‘Framework Document’ with the British Prime Minister, John Major. This document outlined new proposed relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Many of Bruton's opponents considered him to be too willing to accommodate unionist demands (in one famous (inaccurate) accusation, Albert Reynolds referred to him as "John Unionist"). However, he took a strongly critical position on the British Government's reluctance to engage with Sinn Féin during the IRA's 1994–1997 ceasefire.

Bruton also established a working relationship with Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin. However, the relationship became frayed following the ending of the ceasefire in 1996, resulting in a bomb explosion in London. These relations worsened when the IRA killed Jerry McCabe, a member of the Gardaí, in a post office robbery in County Limerick, and another bomb explosion in Manchester. Bruton resisted advice to end all talks with Sinn Féin, though he continued to be one of their most vocal critics and advocated another IRA ceasefire before Sinn Féin would be allowed to join all-party talks. However, Bruton received widespread praise in the Republic for condemning the Royal Ulster Constabulary for yielding to loyalist threats at Drumcree by allowing members of the Orange Order to parade through a nationalist district. He stated that the RUC had been neither impartial nor consistent in applying the law. His outrage and criticism led to a tense atmosphere between London and Dublin. The IRA resumed their ceasefire soon after Fine Gael lost the 1997 general election.

Bruton came to power at a time when Ireland's economy was achieving substantial growth. With the Celtic Tiger in its infancy, the standard of living increased dramatically. In the year before he took office (1993) the Irish economy had grown by 2.7%. During his time as Taoiseach, though, the economy grew at an annual average rate of 8.7%, an exceptional pace by any international comparison.

He also presided over a successful Irish Presidency of the European Union in 1996 and helped finalise the Stability and Growth Pact, which establishes macroeconomic parameters for countries participating in the single European currency, the euro. Bruton addressed a joint session of the United States Congress on 11 September 1996, as only the 30th head of state or government of an EU country to do so since 1945.

Bruton's government suffered from some allegations of corruption, and political embarrassment. In 1996 his Minister for Transport, Michael Lowry, resigned from the Cabinet after allegations that he had not paid income tax on payments from the supermarket tycoon, Ben Dunne for work he had done for him as a businessman prior to becoming a minister. His minister of state in the Department of Finance also resigned, on 9 February 1995, as a result of leaks from the department. Additionally, many years later Frank Dunlop made allegations before the planning tribunal that he had informed Bruton about demands for a £250,000 bribe made to him by a Fine Gael Dublin councillor, Tom Hand, in order to rezone the Quarryvale development. Dunlop testified that when he informed Bruton of the bribery attempts, Bruton replied, "There are no angels in the world or in Fine Gael". Bruton vehemently denied this and Fine Gael counsel told the Planning Tribunal in 2003: "I refute entirely Mr Dunlop's contention that he advised me then of the alleged demand made to him by the late Tom Hand". However, following further evidence at the Tribunal, Bruton returned to it in October 2007 and conceded that "it gradually came back to me", that Dunlop, "did say to me something about a councillor looking for money".[8] But, in his own evidence to the tribunal in 2007, Dunlop himself said that he had not mentioned any figure of 250,000 to Bruton in his 1993 conversation with him.

Bruton presided over the first official visit by a member of the British Royal Family since 1912, the Prince of Wales. His welcome speech to Prince Charles was viewed by some journalists negatively in Ireland. In Britain, The Times of London accused him of being "embarrassingly effusive" while The Guardian lambasted that Bruton get a grip on his "extravagantly nonsensical attitudes".[9]. Despite this bitterness, the visit was a success. Bruton himself viewed the fact that the heir to the British throne could visit the Republic successfully, as marking an important turning point in Anglo Irish relations and stands over the comments he made as appropriate in the circumstances.

Following the murder of crime journalist Veronica Guerin, his government established the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Post-Taoiseach period

John Bruton on lecture tour at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The government was widely expected to win re-election in 1997. While Fine Gael gained nine seats, Labour was severely mauled, losing 16 seats and leaving the coalition far short of the parliamentary support it needed to retain office. A Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrat coalition led by Bertie Ahern came into power, with Bruton reverting to leadership of the opposition.

Fine Gael sunk into paralysis in opposition. Fearing that the party would face collapse, he was deposed from leadership in 2001. However the new leader Michael Noonan failed to live up to expectations and the party's ratings fell to a far worse extent than had been expected under Bruton. Having gone into the election expecting to increase its seat numbers from 54 to 60, instead it collapsed, winning a mere 31, 39 seats less than at its highpoint twenty years earlier in 1982.

Bruton, a passionate supporter of European integration, was chosen as one of the two Irish Parliament Representatives to the European Convention which helped draft the proposed European Constitution. He was one of two National Parliament Representatives to sit on the 12-member Praesidium, which helped steer the European Convention. He is a member of the Comite d'Honneur of the Institute of European Affairs, along with Peter Sutherland and Bertie Ahern. He accepted an offer to become European Union ambassador to the United States in the summer of 2004, and after resigning from the Dáil on 31 October 2004, he assumed that office. As a former head of government and native English speaker, his appointment is seen as a strategic choice in improving transatlantic relations. On his appointment, Bruton was praised by Ahern, who said Bruton had played "a pivotal role in developing Ireland’s relations with the European Union."[10]

Bruton received an Honorary Doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2003 and from the University of Missouri in 2009.

He became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society before leaving for the US in 2004. He regularly lectures at national and international universities. In early 2004 he accepted a position as Adjunct Faculty Member in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University. In November 2008, he received the Order of the Polar Star award from the Swedish government.[11]

His brother, Richard Bruton, is the current deputy leader of Fine Gael.

On 29 October 2009 it was announced that he had written to the ambassadors to the United States of the 27 members of the European Union expressing his interest in applying for the position of president of the European Council following implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.[12] Bruton was very much an outside shot for the position as EU leaders firmly indicated they want a chairman-style president rather than a high-profile figurehead to fill the post.[13] Herman Van Rompuy, the then Belgian Prime Minister, was appointed President on November 19, 2009 and took office on December 1, 2009.

Government

External links

References

  1. ^ "Dubliner who gave up city life for the farm". Irish Independent. 7 March 2009. http://www.independent.ie/obituaries/dubliner-who-gave-up-city-life-for-the-farm-1664618.html. Retrieved 27 May 2009.  
  2. ^ "John Bruton – Dáil Éireann Members' Database". Houses of the Oireachtas Website. http://www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist/default.asp?housetype=0&HouseNum=29&MemberID=118&ConstID=148. Retrieved 29 July 2008-.  
  3. ^ Different reports suggested that either Barry or Bruton came a poor third.
  4. ^ Fine Gael candidate Austin Currie finished a poor third with 17%, behind Labour's Mary Robinson and Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan.
  5. ^ Fergus Finlay, Mary Robinson: A President with a Purpose (O'Brien Press, 1990) pp 145-146.
  6. ^ Fianna Fáil since 1932 had been by far the bigger of the two parties, often with double the number of Dáil seats of Fine Gael.
  7. ^ Bruton's radio interview in the final week of the referendum on divorce in 1996 was seen as tipping the scales in favour of a yes vote. The referendum was narrowly won by the yes side.
  8. ^ "Bruton's evidence came too late". Irish Independent. 21 October 2007. http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/brutons-evidence-came-too-late-1200448.html. Retrieved 27 May 2009.  
  9. ^ Mary Holland, 'Princely Welcome Masks an Uncertain Ease', The Irish Times, 8 June 1995
  10. ^ "Bruton Moves to D.C. for Euro Post". The Irish Voice. http://www.irishabroad.com/news/irishinamerica/news/BrutonMovesEuroPost.asp.  
  11. ^ "Bruton receives Swedish title". The Irish Times. 20 November 2008. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/1120/1227135219982.html. Retrieved 20 November 2008.  
  12. ^ "Bruton puts himself forward for EU Presidency". The Irish Times. 29 October 2009. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2009/1029/1224257604883.html.  
  13. ^ http://www.independent.ie/national-news/taoiseach-is-forced-to-back-bruton-for-eu-post-1929074.html
Oireachtas
Preceded by
Denis Farrelly
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Meath
1969–2004
Succeeded by
Shane McEntee
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Tunney
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education
1973–1976
Succeeded by
Patrick Reynolds
New title Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce
1973–1977
Succeeded by
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
Preceded by
Gene Fitzgerald
Minister for Finance
1981–1982
Succeeded by
Ray MacSharry
Preceded by
Albert Reynolds
Minister for Industry and Energy
1982–1983
Succeeded by
Dick Spring
Preceded by
Frank Cluskey
Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism
1983–1986
Succeeded by
Michael Noonan
Preceded by
Alan Dukes
Minister for Finance
1986–1987
Succeeded by
Ray MacSharry
Preceded by
Ruairi Quinn
Minister for the Public Service
1987
Preceded by
Alan Dukes
Leader of the Opposition
1990–1994
Succeeded by
Bertie Ahern
Preceded by
Albert Reynolds
Taoiseach
1994–1997
Preceded by
Romano Prodi
President of the European Council
1996
Succeeded by
Wim Kok
Preceded by
Bertie Ahern
Leader of the Opposition
1997–2001
Succeeded by
Michael Noonan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Peter Barry
Deputy Leader of Fine Gael
1987–1990
Succeeded by
Nora Owen
Preceded by
Alan Dukes
Leader of Fine Gael
1990–2001
Succeeded by
Michael Noonan
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Günter Burghardt
European Union Ambassador to the United States
2004–2009
Succeeded by
??
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Desmond Foley
Baby of the Dáil
1969–1975
Succeeded by
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

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