Courtesy, Civility and Courage: Brian Lenihan’s hallmarks
Deaglán de Bréadún
Sadly, I was unable to attend the funeral of Brian Lenihan since I was in Cork, covering the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. However, I would not like to let the opportunity pass wihout paying tribute to his courtesy, civility, eloquence and intelligence.
It is too early to arrive at a definitive judgment on his performance as finance minister. The implications of the events in which he played a part, and the decisions he was involved in, are still working themselves out.
But it was always a pleasure to meet and converse with him, which in my case usually took place on the way in or out of the Dail canteen. Like his father, Brian Sr, he was a kindly and considerate soul.
That’s not to say that he was a pushover in politics or that he would decline to get a good hard (but fair) blow in at a political opponent when he got the chance.
It was a reflection of the esteem in which he was held that, even at a time when Fianna Fail was in meltdown, the only TD returned for the party in the Dublin region was the same Brian Lenihan.
It is sad to think that we shall no longer be graced with his urbane presence in the corridors and the Dail chamber. While matters of substance are obviously of greater importance, the role of courtesy and civility in our democratic process should not be underestimated. I have written elsewhere of the benign influence that the courteous presence of Senator George Mitchell exercised upon the parties in the Northern talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement.
Brian Lenihan refused to be bowled over by his cancer diagnosis. As someone who had to travel that road in the past myself, albeit in a more benign set of circumstances and with a happier trajectory, I pay tribute to his life-affirming approach. The fact that one just might be dead tomorrow is no earthly reason for not making the most of today.
I shall think of him and others like him when I see the lifesize copy of the Dying Gaul statue in the Leinster House extension. The subject knows he is dying but endures his fatal wounds with dignity and stoicism. To Brian Lenihan’s loved ones, my sincere condolences. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (We shall not see his likes again.)