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Tributes as Ernest Britto dies aged 79 after decades of public service

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Tributes were paid on Monday to Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Ernest Michael Britto OBE ED KMCO, a former government minister who served as a Member of Parliament for over two decades and died on Monday aged 79.

Lt Col Britto became an MP in 1988 and later went on to serve as a minister in the GSD governments between 1996 and 2011, holding several portfolios in that time including health, environment, sports and leisure.

Before entering politics, he was the Commanding Officer of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment from 1982 to 1985, and in 2014 was named Honorary Colonel of the regiment.

Flags on all government buildings flew at half-mast on Monday until 8pm and will be lowered again on the day of his funeral.

Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the GSD, said the party was saddened to hear of his passing.

“Ernest was there during the first few years of the GSD and at the 1992 election was, together with Sir Peter Caruana, the only GSD candidate with parliamentary experience,” Mr Azopardi said.

“Having already served in the Gibraltar Regiment with distinction ending his military career at the highest rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Ernest was then to have a long and illustrious political career.”

“He would serve in Opposition for four years, first with the AACR, and in Government with the GSD for 16 years, occupying a number of important portfolios including government services, the environment, sport, health, transport and tourism over the years.”

“He was Deputy Leader of the GSD from 1992 to 1995 and was also an accomplished sportsman.”

“He gave a life of service to Gibraltar and will be sorely missed as a friend and colleague for so many years.”

“Our condolences go to his entire family.”

There were messages of condolence too from No.6 Convent Place.

“I am deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Ernest Britto,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

“Ernest was a kind and charming man who dedicated 23 years of his life as a Member of Parliament, 16 years of which he spent as a Government minister.”

“Before that, Ernest was Commanding Officer of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and also President of the Gibraltar Commonwealth Games Association and was a very well known and loved member of our community.”

“I always found a friend in Ernest beyond politics.”

“He taught me, more than most, that partisan differences should not keep us apart at a personal level.”

“On behalf of the Government and People of Gibraltar I express my most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

The Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, added: “I was very sorry to hear that Ernest Britto has passed away.”

“I considered him a friend even though we sat on opposite sides of the House ever since I was first elected in 1999 until he retired in 2011.”

“I travelled with him on my very first Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference where we struck a friendship which continued throughout his time in Parliament.”

“Indeed, he would sometimes telephone me, even though I was in Opposition, in order to discuss issues.”

“In this unique way and with his personal touch, he removed the sting from politics to concentrate purely on the political.”

“My most sincere condolences to his family.”

Together Gibraltar also paid its respects to a man who had served Gibraltar “with distinction” and was a respected member of the community.

TG said his achievements in different areas of public service spanned decades and were “nothing short of remarkable”.

As the Chairman of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Council of Colonels, he played a pivotal role in guiding the regiment and promoting its interests, earning him the honour of being named Honorary Colonel in 2014, TG said.

His tenure as a minister in the Government of Gibraltar saw him lead on many important policies, from health to telecommunications, it added.

“The passing of Ernest Britto is a great loss to our community,” said TG Leader Marlene Hassan Nahon.

“He was one of several committed individuals who stepped up to the plate at a time of urgent crisis, helping to deliver change when it was most needed.”

“We take this opportunity to offer our condolences to Mr. Britto’s wife and family and wish them much strength at this difficult time.”

Lt Col Britto is survived by his wife Madeleine, his children Germaine and Keith, and his five grandchildren.

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