Bruton and FitzGerald clashed over Bewley's rescue package

Garret FitzGerald’s support proposal angered John Bruton

Ralph Riegel

A war of words erupted between former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and then-finance minister John Bruton over a proposed Government-backed rescue package for Bewley's Cafe.

Newly released Cabinet documents from the 1988 State archive revealed Mr Bruton angrily wrote to Dr FitzGerald warning that the manner in which the Bewley's rescue package was proposed threatened to undermine his statutory authority over State spending.

Dr FitzGerald, a fan of Bewley's, had proposed State support for a rescue package.

"Bewley's are part of the essential character and atmosphere of Dublin," Dr FitzGerald stressed.

He said the cafe was part of Dublin's cultural and tourism life.

However, the rescue packaged proposed was apparently outlined without detailed prior consultation with his Meath colleague.


On June 12, 1986, Mr Bruton wrote to the Taoiseach expressing his alarm over the Bewley's proposal.

"I am concerned that my statutory role with regard to sanctioning expenditure should not be undermined as a result of the failure to consult my department before reaching decisions which may have implications for public expenditure," he wrote.

Mr Bruton said he was "particularly worried" by a number of such breaches.

"Apart from yourself, I am the minister most seriously disadvantaged by the anarchy caused by these breaches because of my legitimate interest in most issues which come before Government," he wrote.


Further, he warned that Kylemore Bakeries had subsequently approached him on the basis that Government support for Bewley's would represent unfair competition.

He explained that Kylemore had themselves been considering purchasing Bewley's.

A letter from Dr FitzGerald to Mr Bruton outlining what had happened with the proposed Bewley's rescue package was typed, but marked "unsent" in the archive.