Dozens gather along streets of Dunboyne to pay tribute to ‘fatherlike’ John Bruton

State funeral for former taoiseach takes place at 11am on Saturday in Dunboyne, Co Meath

Dozens of people gathered along the main road leading into Dunboyne in Co Meath on Friday evening as a hearse carrying the remains of former taoiseach John Bruton made its way into the town.

Families from estates lining the Summerhill Road gathered in the wet and cold shortly before 7pm to hold up their phone torches and form a guard of honour as the remains of the former taoiseach were brought to his removal ceremony at St Peter and Paul’s Church on Dunboyne’s main street. Another 150 people gathered under floodlights outside the church as the coffin draped with a Tricolour was brought inside the church, followed by Mr Bruton’s wife Finola, his children, grandchildren and extended family.

The former taoiseach, who led Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001, died earlier this week aged 76 following a long illness. He led the Rainbow Coalition Government, which also involved Labour and Democratic Left, between December 1994 and June 1997 and was succeeded as party leader by Michael Noonan in January 2001. The former Meath TD went on to serve as the EU’s ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2009.

“He was a great statesman, his vision for the European Union was far-seeing and challenging,” Fr Patrick O’Connor told the congregation at Friday’s removal. “He certainly was a great ambassador, not only for the EU but also for Ireland.


“John Bruton was a politician, a minister, a taoiseach, an ambassador – all great achievements for the Dunboyne man who never lost touch with his roots,” added Fr O’Connor. “But, above all that, John was a family man. Family was the centre of John’s life.”

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was among those who gathered in Dunboyne on Friday evening to pay her respects, along with her Government colleagues Heather Humphreys, Damien English, Catherine Martin, Thomas Byrne and Francis Noel Duffy. Also in attendance were European commissioner Mairéad McGuinness; former Labour Party politician and member of Bruton’s Rainbow Coalition Proinsias De Rossa, former Fine Gael minister Nora Owen and former GAA football manager for Meath Seán Boylan.

Fine Gael councillor for Ratoath Maria Murphy, who took part in a guard of honour of Fine Gael party members along the route to the church, described the late taoiseach as “a highly intelligent man who just wanted the best for the country. He wasn’t a bells-and-whistles politician, he didn’t seek media popularity. He was very empathetic and sympathetic to people’s situations.”

“People had a high regard for him, even people who didn’t agree with his politics. They appreciated the kind of man he was and what he did for this country.”

Local photographer Emer Sherlock who helped organise the guard of honour along the Summerhill Road said Mr Bruton would be remembered as a “fatherlike figure in Dunboyne”. “He will be remembered as a statesman, amplifying Ireland in the EU and the US, which we are extremely proud of, whilst never forgetting his local heritage and community.”

Mr Bruton’s State funeral Mass will take place at 11am on Saturday at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Dunboyne followed by his burial in Rooske Cemetery.

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Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast