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John Bruton, who spurred peace talks as Irish prime minister, dies at 76

John Bruton, who as Ireland’s prime minister played a key role in advancing talks that led to a landmark 1998 peace accord in Northern Ireland, died Feb. 6 at a hospital in Dublin. He was 76.

Mr. Bruton’s family announced the death but gave no specific cause.

First elected to Ireland’s parliament, the Dáil, at 22, Mr. Bruton led the centrist Fine Gael party between 1990 and 2001. He was taoiseach, or prime minister, from 1994 to 1997, a period in which Northern Ireland’s rival groups were coaxed into peace talks.

The negotiations culminated in the Good Friday peace accord in 1998, a year after Mr. Bruton lost Ireland’s 1997 election to rival party Fianna Fáil, led by Bertie Ahern, who became prime minister.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins credited Mr. Bruton for keeping negotiators focused on the overall goal of a peace accord to end decades of sectarian strife, known as “The Troubles.”

Violence flared in the late 1960s but had roots in centuries of Catholic-Protestant conflict and the partition of the island in 1921 between the British-held North and the future Republic of Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Accord, was reached on April 10, 1998, when British Prime Minister Tony Blair joined other dignitaries in Belfast to announce a peace framework hammered out over 21 months of negotiations. The key points included greater self-rule for Northern Ireland and pledges to end the conflict. On one side was largely Catholic factions, including the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Féin; on the other was Protestant loyalists and the British army, allied with local police and paramilitary forces.

Some hard-line IRA factions refused to accept the truce, but it largely ended the violence that had claimed more than 3,600 lives over three decades.

John Gerard Bruton was born on May 18, 1947, into a farming family in Dunboyne, about 10 miles northwest of Dublin. He studied at the University College Dublin, earning a bachelor’s degree, and later qualified as a barrister but never practiced law.

He was elected to the Dáil in the 1969 general elections as one of the youngest members to hold a parliament seat. After retiring from politics, Mr. Bruton served as European Union ambassador to the United States between 2004 and 2009.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, the former Finola Gill; a son and three daughters.

Washington Post staff contributed to this report.

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