Former Taoiseach (prime minister) John Bruton has returned to Ireland after his five-year stint as EU ambassador to Washington, D.C. came to an end on Friday.
Bruton is now expected to lobby prime ministers in the European People’s Party (EPP), which has the power to select the next president of the European Council.
On Monday Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton rejected suggestions that his brother’s posting in the U.S. for the past five years implied that he was now relatively unknown to prime ministers in the EPP, of which Fine Gael is a member.
‘‘It has been said that his EPP contacts have dried up but it is not the case and he has very good connections. The idea that he has faded from the radar is not true,” said Bruton, adding that 25 EU prime ministers voted for his brother as EU ambassador five years ago.
Addressing a farewell meeting hosted by the European Institute in Washington last week John Bruton said, “My hope, as I leave my post here after five wonderful years, is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, the positive, the foresightful, the courageous and the problem-solving forces in politics will overwhelm the forces of postponement, partisanship, point-scoring and intellectual paralysis.”
Europeans and Americans have huge investments in one another, Bruton added. “We have deep ties of blood and culture. We share a deep commitment to the rule of law and democracy.
“We are, in the large part, military and political allies. We have a stake in one another’s success. Thus, we have a stake in one another’s politics. American political decisions, or lack of decisions, affect Europe. European political decisions, or lack of decisions, affect America.”
Bruton added that there is a long list of issues on which both the EU and the U.S. must work together, including relationships with China, India, Russia, Africa, and with the Islamic world, with the goal of bringing terrorists to justice, and the goal of protecting inventions and investments.
“Politics is about more than the next election,” Bruton told the Washington gathering. “It is about the next generation.”
Bruton added that his time in the U.S. had also been a wonderful experience for his wife Finola and for his family.
In recent weeks Bruton has been refusing to comment on various positions his name has been associated with, including the post of Ireland’s new EU commissioner, or the presidency of the European Council under the Lisbon Treaty, or the Irish presidency in succession to Mary McAleese.
Last week Fine Gael party leader Enda Kenny met with EPP members in Brussels to advance Bruton’s nomination for European Council president, and he successfully pressed Taoiseach Brian Cowen to withdraw his support for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in favor of the Irish candidate.