Former Irish premier John Bruton who helped pave way for Good Friday Agreement is remembered as ‘humbling and unassuming man’ at full state funeral

Former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, who helped pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement, was remembered as a ‘humble and unassuming’ man at his full state funeral.

Mr Bruton, who was taoiseach of the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ government between 1994 and 1997, died aged 76 on Tuesday, surrounded by his family in hospital after a long illness.

Senior political figures including President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were joined by ministers, TDs and parliamentary ushers for the service at Saints Peter and Paul’s Church in Mr Bruton’s home town of Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Michelle O’Neill, who became Northern Ireland’s first nationalist prime minister last Saturday, and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly were also present to remember the man who served as leader of Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001.

A small crowd gathered at a large screen outside the church to watch the funeral.

John Bruton, who was taoiseach of the 'Rainbow Coalition' government between 1994 and 1997, died on Tuesday at the age of 76.

John Bruton, who was taoiseach of the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ government between 1994 and 1997, died on Tuesday at the age of 76.

The state funeral was held at Saints Peter and Paul's Church in Mr Bruton's home town of Dunboyne, Co Meath.

The state funeral was held at Saints Peter and Paul’s Church in Mr Bruton’s home town of Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ireland's former Prime Minister John Bruton.  It was draped in the Irish flag

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ireland’s former Prime Minister John Bruton. It was draped in the Irish flag

Full state funeral honors were accorded Mr Bruton, with Irish soldiers carrying his coffin from the church before it was carried on a hearse to Rooske Cemetery where full military honors will be given at the graveside.

Soldiers mr. Bruton’s coffin dressed at the family home before the removal mass on Friday.

Mr Bruton oversaw a referendum that would legalize divorce in Ireland and contribute to the Northern Ireland peace process by introducing the Anglo-Irish framework document.

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald were also at the state funeral.

Mr Bruton is survived by his wife Finola, his children Matthew, Juliana, Emily and Mary-Elizabeth, and his grandchildren and his younger brother, former government minister, Richard Bruton, who read a prayer of the faithful at the funeral.

Their sister Mary Bruton spoke to thank friends for their kindness during the family’s grief.

In the sermon, Father Bruce Bradley described Mr Bruton as ‘an exceptionally good man’.

‘John was honest and honourable, patient and persistent, courageous and committed, ‘willing to lead even when it meant going against the grain’, as the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, humble and modest, a man of integrity and truth.’

John Bruton's wife Finola Bruton (right) and daughter Mary Elizabeth Bruton as the coffin arrives

John Bruton’s wife Finola Bruton (right) and daughter Mary Elizabeth Bruton as the coffin arrives

Mr Bruton oversaw a referendum that would legalize divorce in Ireland and contribute to the Northern Ireland peace process by launching the Anglo-Irish framework document

Mr Bruton oversaw a referendum that would legalize divorce in Ireland and contribute to the Northern Ireland peace process by introducing the Anglo-Irish framework document

Michelle O'Neill (right), who became Northern Ireland's first nationalist prime minister last Saturday, and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly (far right) were also present.  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) was also there

Michelle O’Neill (right), who became Northern Ireland’s first nationalist prime minister last Saturday, and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly (far right) were also present. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) was also there

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar and President Michael D. Higgins attend the state funeral

Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar and President Michael D. Higgins attend the state funeral

A man holds a service order at the state funeral of former taoiseach John Bruton at Saints Peter's and Paul's Church

A man holds a service order at the state funeral of former taoiseach John Bruton at Saints Peter’s and Paul’s Church

Mr Bruton’s daughters Emily Bruton Iniekio read the poem Death Is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland, while her sister Mary-Elizabeth Bruton gave the second reading.

Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said Saints Peter and Paul’s Church was important to Mr Bruton, and they met at Sunday masses.

“Faith was important to him and the Christian ideal,” Bishop Deenihan said, adding that aspects of the late taoiseach’s religious beliefs “informed his political thinking”.

‘He was not, and rightly so, an advocate of a theocracy, but was, in the best sense of the term, a Christian democrat.

‘The Christian principles of co-operation, dialogue, fairness and respect – central to the teachings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount – are also evidenced in his work in relation to Northern Ireland and Europe.’

Ireland's former prime minister, Enda Kenny, attends the state funeral of former prime minister John Bruton

Ireland’s former prime minister, Enda Kenny, attends the state funeral of former prime minister John Bruton

The coffin of former taoiseach John Bruton is carried on a hearse to his state funeral service

The coffin of former taoiseach John Bruton is carried on a hearse to his state funeral service

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (left) and Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, arrive for the state funeral

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (left) and Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, arrive for the state funeral

As Taoiseach, John Bruton launched the Anglo-Irish 'Framework Document' in 1995 with Sir John Major (pictured together in Downing Street).

As Taoiseach, John Bruton launched the Anglo-Irish ‘Framework Document’ in 1995 with Sir John Major (pictured together in Downing Street).

Mr Bruton with his budget package as finance minister in 1982

Mr Bruton with his budget package as finance minister in 1982

Mr Bruton with Bill Clinton in the White House in the 1990s

Mr Bruton with Bill Clinton in the White House in the 1990s

The bishop said the praise given to Mr Bruton since his death that he was “a decent man” was “the highest honor in rural Ireland”.

Several senior political figures were seen chatting in the wake of the funeral mass, including Mr Ahern speaking to former NI Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan, and Ms Little-Pengelly offering her condolences to Mr Bruton’s widow, Finola.

Ukrainian Ambassador Larysa Gerasko and US Ambassador Claire Cronin were also in attendance at the funeral.