DEAR EDITOR: It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of John Bruton, former Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael.

Above all, John was a wonderful family man, and so we express sympathy to his wife Finola, his children, his grandchildren, his brother Richard, his sister Mary, and his many relatives and friends.

John had a distinguished political career as Dáil deputy, Government minister, Taoiseach and European Ambassador to the United States, for over 45 years.

The laugh was still there – kind of – when I last talked with John, at Christmas. What wasn’t there, those few weeks ago, was self-pity. It had never been part of his make-up and dying wasn’t going to change that.

He was still focused on the ideas that had made him such a fascinating politician and leader.

He was an intellectual powerhouse in national and international politics during his lifetime. And he learned. He learned as few politicians do.

Over the years, for example, he came to realise the need to listen more carefully and better engage with other points of view in order to achieve political objectives.

This change eventually brought him to the office of Taoiseach in 1994.

His political views on Northern Ireland, whereby he advocated an inclusive and peaceful way forward, by respecting the rights and aspirations of all traditions, often conflicted with views within the Fine Gael party, and his coalition partners.

However, these views were sincerely held and were probably strengthened by the terrorist atrocities of the IRA during most of his political life, as well as the deaths of people like his friend senator Billy Fox, Tom Oliver from Co Louth, and several policemen.

These atrocities left an indelible mark on his attitude to the rule of law throughout his lifetime.

John Bruton may have been an intellectual heavyweight, deeply embedded in the European project, but he was also a man so without guile that he’d never have organised a good conspiracy.

He had no deviousness and – to the end – a buoyant belief in politics and in people.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.