Richard Bruton

Not to be confused with Richard Burton (disambiguation).
Richard Bruton

Richard Bruton at the 2012 Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Minister for Education and Skills
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Jan O'Sullivan
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
In office
9 March 2011  6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Mary Hanafin
Succeeded by Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Deputy Leader of the Fine Gael Party
In office
12 June 2002  14 June 2010
Leader Enda Kenny
Preceded by Jim Mitchell
Succeeded by James Reilly
Minister for Enterprise and Employment
In office
15 December 1994  26 June 1997
Taoiseach John Bruton
Preceded by Charlie McCreevy
Succeeded by Mary Harney
Minister of State for Energy Affairs
In office
23 September 1986  20 January 1987
Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald
Preceded by Edward Collins
Succeeded by Office abolished
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2016
Constituency Dublin Bay North
Teachta Dála
In office
February 1982  February 2016
Constituency Dublin North–Central
In office
October 1981  February 1982
Constituency Agricultural Panel
Personal details
Born (1953-03-15) 15 March 1953
Dunboyne, Meath, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael
Spouse(s) Susan Meehan
Relations John Bruton (brother)
Children 4[1]
Alma mater

Richard Bruton (born 15 March 1953) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 1982, currently for the Dublin Bay North constituency.[2] He has been Minister for Education and Skills since May 2016.

Bruton previously served as Minister for Enterprise and Employment from 1994 to 1997. While Fine Gael were in opposition, he was the party spokesperson on Finance and its Deputy Leader from 2002 to 2010. When Fine Gael returned to power he was appointed as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in March 2011.

Early and private life

Richard Bruton was born in Dublin and grew up in Dunboyne, County Meath. He is the son of Joseph and Doris Bruton.[1] He was educated at Belvedere College, Clongowes Wood College, University College Dublin and Nuffield College, Oxford.[3] At Oxford he graduated with a MPhil in Economics, his thesis being on the subject of Irish public debt.[1] He is a research economist by profession,[4] and after university he worked at the Economic and Social Research Institute. This was followed by two years in the tobacco company P.J. Carroll before moving on to his final private sector job at CRH.[1]

He is the younger brother of John Bruton, the former Taoiseach and EU Ambassador to the United States.

Bruton is married to Susan Meehan; they have four children, two sons and two daughters.[5]

Early political career: 1979–1992

Bruton was elected to Meath County Council in 1979 and was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1981 on the Agricultural Panel.[1] At the February 1982 general election he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael TD.[6] From 1986 to 1987 he served as Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. He was then appointed Opposition Spokesperson for Enterprise and Employment.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment: 1992–1997

After the 1992 general election, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party formed a coalition government, which collapsed in 1994. Bruton then helped to negotiate the 'Rainbow Coalition' between Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left. In that government his brother John Bruton became Taoiseach. Richard Bruton was given the highest-ranking Fine Gael ministerial position, serving as Minister for Enterprise and Employment.

Return to Opposition: 1997–2011

With the end of the Rainbow Coalition after the 1997 general election, Bruton returned to opposition.

Dublin City Council: 1999–2003

In 1999 he was elected to Dublin City Council, representing the Artane area.[6] He relinquished this seat when dual mandates were banned in 2003.

Fine Gael leadership election: 2002

Fine Gael had a disastrous result at the 2002 general election; Bruton was one of the few frontbench Fine Gael TDs to retain his seat. The party lost 23 of its 54 TDs, and leader Michael Noonan resigned. Bruton stood as a candidate in the subsequent leadership election.[7] He was defeated by Enda Kenny but was appointed Deputy Leader of Fine Gael, and also party spokesperson for Finance, posts he maintained until 2010.

Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Finance: 2002–2010

Bruton was appointed Finance Spokesperson in 2002. In that role he was a consistent critic of government economic policy. In particular, he warned about the government’s overreliance on the property sector, and said that the government was ignoring the erosion of competitiveness and the loss of export market share as a growing construction sector temporarily insulated the economy from their effects.

In 2006, he told the Dáil that the government had "doubled its dependence on the construction sector to support its revenue. A total of 25% of every tax euro spent by the Government comes from the construction sector. We are not in a strong position; we are, in fact, in a vulnerable position."

Bruton raised concerns about the payment of benchmarking awards. In 2003, on behalf of Fine Gael, he proposed a motion that the payment of the remaining phases of benchmarking be suspended pending implementation of a serious reform package so that the €1.3 Billion cost of benchmarking would be matched by commensurate improvements in public services.

Fine Gael leadership challenge: 2010

On 14 June 2010 Bruton was sacked as Deputy Leader and spokesperson on Finance by his leader Enda Kenny, after he informed his colleagues that he would be proposing a leadership challenge against Kenny.[8][9] Kenny explained that he and Bruton had had a series of discussions in which Bruton said he had lost confidence in him. Kenny later told the media that "Richard's decision leaves me with no option but to relieve him of all his responsibilities". He also said that "some unnamed people have done huge damage to Fine Gael through their anonymous comments to the media which has resulted in an opinion poll dominating the news agenda". He then assigned responsibility for the Finance portfolio to Deputy Kieran O'Donnell.

The first TD to come out in support of Bruton before his sacking was frontbencher Fergus O'Dowd from County Louth.[10] Nine other members of the front bench publicly expressed no confidence in Kenny's leadership. These included Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Brian Hayes and Olivia Mitchell.

On 17 June 2010, a meeting of the parliamentary party was held and the 70 members cast their vote. The outcome was that the parliamentary party voted confidence in Enda Kenny as leader. Bruton then declined to comment as to whether he would serve in Kenny's front bench, despite saying earlier that it would be hypocritical to do so. On 1 July 2010 he was appointed by Kenny as party spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.[11]

Return to Government: 2011–present

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: 2011–2016

Bruton was appointed by the new Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 9 March 2011.

Bruton launched the first annual Action Plan for Jobs in 2012. The Plan's high level target was to create 100,000 net new jobs by 2016. Bruton announced in May 2015 that the target to create 100,000 additional new jobs had been hit almost two years early.[12] The Action Plan is based on setting realistic targets and focusing on them until the measures required are in place. In The Irish Times in early 2014, Stephen Collins wrote approvingly that "hundreds of commitments in the programme are steadily being delivered by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton"[13] and a year later described the annual plan which is "driven by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton" as being "one of the outstanding success stories of the Coalition’s term".[14] In an editorial the Irish Independent said that Bruton deserves credit for the manner in which the Action Plan for Jobs has been crafted and implemented across a range of government departments over the last three years.[15] A review of the Action Plan for Jobs by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concluded it had led to two significant developments in Irish public governance. One is a concerted whole of government policy implementation with political backing and oversight at the highest level. The other important development noted by the OECD is the rigorous quarterly monitoring and reporting system modelled on the troika programme.

While campaigning for the government before the European Fiscal Compact referendum on 17 May 2012, Bruton admitted on live radio the possibility of there being a second referendum if the Irish people voted "No".[16]

Minister for Education and Skills: 2016–present

Following the 2016 general election, there was a delay in government formation. On 9 May 2016, after talks had concluded, Enda Kenny appointed Bruton as Minister for Education and Skills. Bruton launched the first Action Plan for Education in September 2016. The Plan's high level ambition is to make Ireland's education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Sheridan, Kathy (6 December 2008). "The Mr Nice Guy of Irish politics". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  2. "Mr. Richard Bruton". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  3. "Richard Bruton TD". Fine Gael Party website. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  4. "About Richard Bruton". Richard Bruton's official website. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  5. Smyth, Sam (10 February 2010). "Heir apparent keeps his cool as knives are sharpened for FG leader". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  6. 1 2 "Richard Bruton". Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  7. "The line of leaders since FitzGerald". The Irish Times. 14 June 2010.
  8. "Kenny sacks Richard Bruton from Fine Gael front bench". The Irish Times. 14 June 2010.
  9. "Richard Bruton sacked as FG deputy leader". RTÉ News. 14 June 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  10. "First Fine Gael frontbencher emerges in support of Bruton". Irish Examiner. 14 June 2010.
  11. "Bruton & Noonan return to Fine Gael frontbench". RTÉ News. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
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  15. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. "Bruton raises prospect of second treaty referendum". Irish Examiner. Thomas Crosbie Holdings. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
Preceded by
Noël Browne
(Socialist Labour Party)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Dublin North–Central
Feb 1982–present
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Collins
Minister of State for Energy Affairs
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Charlie McCreevy
Minister for Enterprise and Employment
Succeeded by
Mary Harney
Preceded by
Mary Hanafin
as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Succeeded by
Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Preceded by
Jan O'Sullivan
Minister for Education and Skills
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Mitchell
Deputy Leader of Fine Gael
Succeeded by
James Reilly
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