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John Bruton hailed ‘a great statesman’ at removal mass in Co Meath

Former taoiseach John Bruton has been described as “a visionary” and “a great statesman”, at a removal mass at a Co Meath church on Friday ahead of his state funeral.

Mr Bruton’s remains were taken to Saints Peter and Paul’s Church on the main street of his home town of Dunboyne.

Former minister Richard Bruton carried the coffin of his older brother into the church for the ceremony, which began after 7pm on Friday.

During the mass, parish priest Pat O’Connor described John Bruton as a “visionary” and a man committed to peace.

“No matter what position John found himself, he gave it his all, as a TD, as a minister, as taoiseach.

“He was a great statesman, his vision for the European Union was far-seeing.

“He certainly was a great ambassador for the EU. Not only for the EU, but also for Ireland.

“John Bruton, a politician, a minister, taoiseach, ambassador, all great achievements for the Dunboyne man who never lost touch with his roots.”

Wreaths being carried into the church in Dunboyne, Co Meath, before John Bruton's funeral
Wreaths being carried into the church in Dunboyne, Co Meath, before John Bruton’s funeral (Julien Behal/Government Information Service)

EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys and Justice Minister Helen McEntee were among those at the service.

Culture Minister Catherine Martin and her husband Francis Noel Duffy TD, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, and Minister of State for Sport Thomas Byrne were also present at what was otherwise a service for local people.

Senior politicians and dignitaries are expected to attend Mr Bruton’s funeral at the same church on Saturday, before he is buried at Rooske Cemetery.

Mr Bruton, who was Ireland’s premier between 1994 and 1997 and leader of Fine Gael between 1990 and 2001, died on Tuesday aged 76.

The coffin of former taoiseach John Bruton arriving at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Dunboyne
The coffin of former taoiseach John Bruton arriving at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Dunboyne (Julien Behal/Government Information Service)

He died surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness.

Born in Dunboyne, he graduated from University College Dublin before qualifying as a barrister.

After becoming taoiseach, one of Mr Bruton’s first policy initiatives was to call for a referendum that would see the Irish constitution change to allow divorce.

Later that same year he welcomed the then-Prince of Wales to Dublin, marking the first official visit by a member of the royal family since the founding of the state.

He was pivotal in establishing the Northern Ireland peace process alongside then-UK prime minister John Major, as they launched the Anglo-Irish Framework document.

Politicians have praised his intellect, sense of humour and distinctive laugh as well as his passion for farming and dedication to his faith.

Richard Bruton described his older brother as a “pioneer of reform” of parliament and “a man of a lot of ideas”.

“He always travelled on the slogan that ‘every person counts’. I think he brought it into his dealings with everyone,” he said, during an emotional tribute in the Irish Parliament on Wednesday.

John Bruton’s wife Finola Bruton, right, and daughter Mary Elizabeth Bruton
John Bruton’s wife Finola Bruton, right, and daughter Mary Elizabeth Bruton (Julien Behal/Government Information Service)

John Bruton is survived by his wife Fionala, his children Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, and his grandchildren.

Paying tribute to his family, parish priest Pat O’Connor said: “Family was the centre of John’s life. Finola, you were the centre of his life, and became his angel guardian all the time of his illness.”

Mr Bruton had been “very proud” of his four children and enjoyed “the fun and laughter” that his grandchildren brought to his life.

“Of course, speaking of laugh, John had a great, infectious laugh. We can hear him laughing now.”