The death of former Taoiseach John Bruton marks the passing of one with a lifetime connection with the Irish Farmers Journal. His father, Joe Bruton, as well as being livestock committee chairman with the IFA, was a columnist with the Irish Farmers Journal well into his 90s.

John himself, after his secondary education in Clongowes, went on to UCD to do economics and politics and law, qualifying as a barrister.

He never practised, but went straight into politics in his native Co Meath and at the time of his election, at the age of just 22, he was the youngest member of Dáil Éireann.

In the Liam Cosgrave government of 1973, he first became a junior minister (or parliamentary secretary as it was called then) in the Department of Education.

John’s brief was youth affairs and in that first post, he gained an appreciation of the importance of early education for deprived children.

When Fine Gael went into opposition after the 1977 election, he became the front bench spokesman for agriculture.

The details of the brief came naturally to him, but he worked tirelessly to increase his understanding of the issues affecting the sector.

When Fine Gael returned to power, John Bruton was promoted to Minister for Finance under Garrett Fitzgerald, and Alan Dukes became Minister for Agriculture on his first day as a TD. There were three general elections in the turbulent and economically difficult mid-1980s. During John’s second term as finance minister, he took a special interest in the agricultural budgetary allocations and ensured that the advisory and educational organisation ACOT and the research body The Agricultural Institute, were spared the worst of the cuts prior to the formation of Teagasc.

It was an extraordinary turn of events that led him to becoming Taoiseach in 1994. During that time, despite the other two parties in the coalition, Labour and Democratic Left having leaders with whom he would have had superficially little in common, he forged a remarkably successful relationship with Dick Spring and Proinsias De Rossa and, with the benefit of hindsight if he had won the 1997 election, the country would probably have been spared the excesses of the Celtic Tiger years.

In the event, when he resigned as leader of Fine Gael, he was appointed by his European counterparts as EU ambassador to the US. He and his wife, Finola, found those five years enjoyable and fulfilling. He formed close friendships across the political spectrum in the United States, but on his return, he often recounted how he feared for the future of US politics, as he viewed the divisiveness and lack of balance with a foreboding that has turned out to be all too accurate.

In his retirement, John continued to be involved in several organisations and committees, and kept up an active interest in Fine Gael and the European Union. He wrote a long online obituary on Jean Monet, one of the key founders of the European project with whom he shared a strong religious conviction.

It was when he was Taoiseach during a visit to America that he came across the Agricultural Economic section in the University of Missouri – they had developed an unusual analytical and forecasting model for agriculture and John took the model back to Ireland to be examined – and so started the FAPRI unit. It has since been absorbed in to the Teagasc economics section and it is intensively used by the Department of Agriculture in analysing the effects various policy changes would have on Irish farming.

Initially during this development, Prof Gerry Boyle was economic adviser to John Bruton as Taoiseach. Prof Boyle subsequently of course became director of Teagasc.

The enormous attendance at the State funeral from a wide spectrum of the community conveyed the huge respect and admiration in which he was held.

To his wife, Finola, who has been his constant rock in his recent illness, together with their family, we offer our deepest sympathies.