Former taoiseach John Bruton has been described as a “humble and unassuming” man at his state funeral, which was attended by senior political figures including President Michael D Higgins and taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Ministers, secretaries of state and parliamentary constables were among those who attended the service at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Bruton’s hometown of Dunboyne, Co Meath.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly were among those present to remember the man who served as taoiseach in the mid -1990.
A small crowd gathered around the big screen outside the church to watch the funeral.
Mr Bruton was given full state funeral honors, with Irish soldiers carrying his coffin from the church before being taken on a hearse to Rooske Cemetery, where full military honors will be given at the graveside.
Soldiers dressed Mr Bruton’s coffin at the family home on Friday before the removal mass.
Bruton was a member of the “Rainbow Coalition” government between 1994 and 1997, overseeing a referendum to legalize separation in Ireland and contributing to the peace process in Northern Ireland by introducing the Anglo-Irish Framework Document.
He died on Tuesday, aged 76, surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness.
He is survived by his wife Finola, children Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, as well as grandchildren and a younger brother, former government minister Richard Bruton, who read the prayer at the funeral.
People watch the state funeral on a big screen outside St Peter and Paul’s Church in Dunboyne, Co Meath. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Their sister Mary Bruton thanked friends for their kindness during the family’s bereavement.
In his homily, Father Bruce Bradley described Mr Bruton as “an extremely good man”.
“John was honest and honourable, patient and persistent, brave and dedicated, ‘willing to lead even when it meant going against the grain’ as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, modest and unassuming, a man of integrity and truth.”
Mr Bruton’s daughters Emily Bruton Iniekio read Death Is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland while her sister Mary-Elizabeth Bruton read another.
Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton, brother of former Taoiseach John Bruton, arrives for a state funeral. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
The Bishop of Meath, Tom Deenihan, said St Peter and Paul’s Church was important to Mr Bruton and they met at Sunday Masses.
“Faith and the Christian ideal were important to him,” Bishop Deenihan said, adding that aspects of the late taoiseach’s religious beliefs “informed his political thinking”.
“He was not, and rightly so, a defender of theocracy, but he was a Christian democrat in the best sense of the word.
“The Christian principles of cooperation, dialogue, justice and respect – central to Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount – are also evident in his work in relation to Northern Ireland and Europe.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves St Peter and Paul’s Church in Dunboyne, Co Meath. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
The bishop said the eulogy given to Mr Bruton since his death that he was a “decent man” was the “highest accolade in rural Ireland”.
After the funeral mass, several senior political figures were seen talking, including Mr Ahern, who spoke to former NI Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan, and Mrs Little-Pengelly, who offered her condolences to Mr Bruton’s widow, Finola.
Ukrainian Ambassador Larysa Gerasko and American Ambassador Claire Cronin also attended the funeral.