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Thursday 23 February 2017

Brian always put the interests of the country he loved first

Brian Lenihan was a modern patriot. His loss to Irish public life is immense. He was a politician who saw the interests of the people of this country as paramount. Brian's passing has seen a huge outpouring of genuine affection and mourning, and rightly so.

I believe Brian Lenihan's tenure in the Department of Finance was heroic.

He showed outstanding courage and fortitude in helping this country battle the worst recession in the history of our State.

Despite dealing with a terminal illness, Brian never faltered and he deployed all his considerable energies and capabilities at the service of the Irish people. He did a fantastic job and history will show that.

As the economic crisis unfolded, Brian was determined that as Finance Minister he would do what was right and necessary for the country to recover.

He knew this meant he would have to take unpopular decisions. He knew, too, that there would be severe political consequences, but doing the right thing by the country was what mattered most to him.

He was adamant that the Government could not defer, prevaricate or procrastinate over the necessary measures to get our finances under control.

It is a measure of Brian's patriotism and political courage that he never once deviated from the path of putting the interests of the country above those of his party.

Brian was a great Irishman, but he was also a proud European. As Foreign Affairs Minister, I worked closely with Brian at the time of the second Lisbon referendum. Brian had a strong belief in the importance of the European Union to Ireland's economic and political future. His knowledge of European affairs and EU law were indispensable in that campaign.

As Finance Minister, Brian also knew the importance of Ireland maintaining good relations with other European nations. He knew we needed the support and goodwill of our EU colleagues to fight this recession. He looked sceptically on those who made grandstanding statements or maintained at election time that Ireland could dictate to the rest of Europe.

Brian was a progressive politician with a broad range of cosmopolitan interests. He was as well versed on European history as he was on Irish history. He had great skills of diplomacy and a great command of languages, so much so that in his contacts with the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, Brian would regularly discuss technical and complex fiscal matters with her in French.

He was respected as a statesman at home and abroad. As a politician, he had few peers. As a friend, he was generous and warm. May he rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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