Leadership of Fine Gael
Whereas Dukes came from the social democratic wing of Fine Gael, Bruton came from the more conservative wing. However to the surprise of critics and of conservatives, in his first policy initiative he called for a referendum on a Constitutional amendment permitting the enactment of legislation allowing for divorce in Ireland.
Fine Gael had been in decline for nearly a decade; from the highpoint of the November 1982 general election when it achieved 70 seats in Dáil Éireann, only five seats short of Fianna Fáil's total the party had lost a considerable number of seats. Following the inexperienced Dukes' disastrous period of leadership, Bruton's election was seen as offering Fine Gael a chance to rebuild under a far more politically experienced leader. However Bruton's perceived right wing persona and his rural background was used against him by critics and particularly by the media.
By the 1992 general election, the anti-Fianna Fáil mood in the country produced a major swing to the opposition, but that support went to Labour, not Bruton's Fine Gael, which actually lost a further 10 seats. Due to deadlocked negotiations for government which stemmed in part from Labour Party's refusal to be part of a coalition which would include the liberal conservative Progressive Democrats and due to John Bruton ruling out Labour's preference for Democratic Left to be included in the government, the Labour Party chose to enter into a new coalition with Fianna Fáil. It was a humiliating blow to Bruton. Fine Gael, and Bruton personally, continued to perform poorly in opinion polls throughout 1993 and early 1994 and Bruton narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership in early 1994. However a couple of by-election victories, and a good performance in the 1994 European elections, coupled with a disastrous showing by the Labour Party, shored up his position. When in late 1994 the government collapsed, Bruton was able to form a government with the Labour Party and Democratic Left. Bruton faced charges of hypocrisy for agreeing to enter government with Democratic Left, as Fine Gael campaigned in the 1992 general election on a promise not to enter government with the party. Nevertheless, on 15 December, aged 47, Bruton became the then youngest ever Taoiseach. This was the first time in the history of the state that a new government was installed without a general election being held.
Read more about this topic: John Bruton
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