The government was widely expected to win re-election in 1997. While Fine Gael gained nine seats, Labour was severely mauled, losing 16 seats. This left Bruton far short of the parliamentary support he needed to retain office, and he resigned. A Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrat coalition led by Bertie Ahern came into power, with Bruton reverting to leadership of the opposition.
Fine Gael became paralysed in opposition. Bruton was deposed from leadership in 2001 in favour of Michael Noonan, due in part to fears Fine Gael would suffer severe losses in the 2002 election. However, Noonan failed to live up to expectations and the party suffered an even greater collapse than had been expected under Bruton. Having gone into the election expecting to increase its seat count from 54 to 60, it only won 31. This not only tied Fine Gael's second-worst performance in an election, but was 39 seats less than at its highpoint twenty years earlier in 1982.
Bruton, a passionate supporter of European integration, was chosen as one of the two Irish Parliament Representatives to the European Convention which helped draft the proposed European Constitution. He was one of two National Parliament Representatives to sit on the 12-member Praesidium, which helped steer the European Convention. He is a member of the Comite d'Honneur of the Institute of European Affairs, along with Peter Sutherland and Bertie Ahern. He accepted an offer to become European Union ambassador to the United States in the summer of 2004, and after resigning from the Dáil on 31 October 2004, he assumed that office. Bruton was praised by Ahern, who said Bruton had played "a pivotal role in developing Ireland’s relations with the European Union."
Bruton received an Honorary Doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2003 and from the University of Missouri in 2009.
He became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society before leaving for the US in 2004. He regularly lectures at national and international universities. In early 2004 he accepted a position as Adjunct Faculty Member in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University. In November 2008, he received the Order of the Polar Star award from the Swedish government.
His brother, Richard Bruton, was formerly deputy leader of Fine Gael.
On 29 October 2009 it was announced that he had written to the ambassadors to the United States of the 27 members of the European Union expressing his interest in applying for the position of president of the European Council following implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Bruton was very much an outside shot for the position as EU leaders firmly indicated they want a chairman-style president rather than a high-profile figurehead to fill the post. Herman Van Rompuy, the then Belgian Prime Minister, was appointed President on 19 November 2009 and took office on 1 December 2009.
On 21 May 2010, it was announced that he would be the chairman of the newly-formed financial services body, IFSC Ireland. His main role will be to promote the Republic of Ireland as a location of choice for international financial services.
Bruton was widely discussed as a candidate for the 2011 presidential election and was approached by Fine Gael with the opportunity to become their candidate; on 28 May 2011, however, Bruton issued a statement that he was "flattered" to be asked, but would not be a candidate for the presidency.
Since November 2011, Bruton acts as an advisor to Fairobserver focusing mainly on the areas of politics, finance and economics as well as on issues pertaining to Europe.
Bruton receives annual pension payments of €141,849.
Read more about this topic: John Bruton
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