Brian Lenihan remembered as a politician of integrity

Fri, Jun 10, 2011, 01:00

The President and Taoiseach have today led tributes to former minister for finance Brian Lenihan, who died today aged 52.

In a short statement, Mr Lenihan's family said he died at home early this morning. Mr Lenihan had been battling pancreatic cancer.

His diagnosis was first reported over Christmas 2009, and in January 2010, Mr Lenihan released a statement saying cancerous tissue had been identified and that he intended to begin treatment for the condition.

Despite his illness, Mr Lenihan continued to serve as minister for finance under former taoiseach Brian Cowen and contested the Fianna Fáil leadership before losing out to Micheál Martin. He then became Fianna Fáil deputy leader.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said he was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Mr Lenihan.

"Throughout his political career, Brian Lenihan displayed huge commitment to public service and carried out his responsibilities with integrity and compassion," he said.

President Mary McAleese said the "untimely death of such a young and talented public servant" was distressing for all his family, friends and colleagues. “I first knew Brian when he was a student at Trinity College Dublin. He was a brilliant scholar whose early promise as a student was fully vindicated in his subsequent career as a barrister and public representative.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Lenihan had fought “a brave and courageous battle” with cancer over the past 18 months and that he had never once flinched from his public duties.

"He was tested - and tested hard - but he played a stellar role in meeting the fiscal crisis head-on. When Ireland was in the eye of the storm, Brian Lenihan never faltered," he said.

Mr Lenihan’s aunt Mary O’Rourke, a former minister, said the news was “kind of unbelievable”. She said he had been hospitalised “on and off” in recent weeks but had died at home. “We figured he was on the last lap but that he would get some months on that last lap but it wasn’t to be, and it was lovely that he died with [his family] at home,” she told RTÉ radio.

Mr Cowen appointed Mr Lenihan as minister for finance in 2008. A month after taking up the post, Mr Lenihan said he had the "misfortune" to take the job as the economy slumped.

With investors shunning Irish sovereign and banking debt, Mr Lenihan was forced to seek a bailout for the State in November 2010. "I have a very vivid memory of going to Brussels on the final Monday and being on my own at the airport and looking at the snow gradually thawing and thinking to myself: this is terrible," Mr Lenihan said in a BBC radio interview earlier this year.

The son of former tánaiste Brian Lenihan, Mr Lenihan studied law at Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University.

He was first elected to the Dáil in April 1996 in the byelection caused by the death of his father, who had been a deputy in Dublin West since 1977.

Mr Lenihan also served as minister of justice from June 2007 to May 2008. He was also Minister of State with responsibility for Children at the Department of Health and Children, and served in the the Department of Education and Science.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia; his children Tom and Claire; brothers Conor, Niall and Paul; sister Anita and mother Ann.

Funeral details will be announced later.

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