John Bruton Dies at 76; Negotiated for Peace as Irish Prime Minister

John Bruton, a former Irish prime minister who led an alliance known as the Rainbow Coalition and played a central role with Britain in an effort to secure peace in Northern Ireland after decades of strife, died on Tuesday in Dublin. He was 76.

His family said his death, in a hospital, followed a long illness; they did not specify the cause. Mr. Bruton had also served as the European Union’s ambassador in Washington.

Feted in death across the political spectrum in Britain and Ireland, Mr. Bruton had a long career in the center-right Fine Gael party. He was his country’s prime minister, or Taoiseach (pronounced TEE-shack) in Irish, from 1994 to 1997, a time when Britain was led by Prime Minister John Major of the Conservative Party.

The governments in Dublin and London had long acknowledged that they each played a major role in navigating the treacherous sectarian and political divisions of warring Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bruton saw his diplomatic mission as, in part, to counter the suspicions of Northern Ireland’s Protestants, who largely sought and still seek continued union with Britain as part of the United Kingdom. Many Protestants feared that the peace effort would dilute their ability to steer events and forestall a united Ireland.

Such was Mr. Bruton’s readiness to calm Protestant nervousness that rival politicians in the predominantly Catholic Ireland took to calling him “John Unionist.”

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