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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Thousands visit constituency office to express their sadness

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Published 13/06/2011 | 05:00

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Locals from Brian Lenihan's Dublin West constituency who queued to sign the book of condolence at Mr Lenihan's office over the weekend

A LAST, unread book -- 'Kashmir in Conflict' -- sits on Brian Lenihan's desk among a bundle of papers and details of local queries.

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The walls at either end of his simple constituency office have bookshelves stacked to the roof, containing a variety of titles, from the law to literature, reflecting his wide range of interests. Mr Lenihan's friends knew him well as a speed-reader, who would go into a shop to specifically buy one book and come out with 15 or 20.

But his office only contains part of the collection as the bulk of the Lenihan library is on shelves a full corridor long in his family home. The shelves and walls of the office also contained mementoes of his time in politics. A framed commemoration of the 'United Irishmen' hangs on the wall beside his desk.

Pinnacle

And there's a large picture of the members of the British-Irish Inter-parliamentary Body meeting in the Castleknock Hotel and Country Club in 2007.

In the front row of the group sits Mr Lenihan, Pat Carey, Bertie Ahern and then Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy.

His small office overlooks the Scoil Thomais primary school in the heart of his Dublin West constituency, one of the many projects he helped to secure funding for.

This weekend, people from across the country made their way to the west Dublin suburb to pay their respects to Mr Lenihan. A steady stream of people filed into the reception area of the business centre at the back of the Laurel Lodge Shopping Centre to sign books of condolence.

A photograph of Mr Lenihan delivering the oration to Michael Collins at Beal na mBlath -- an event he regarded as the pinnacle of his career -- stood on a table alongside a tricolour. In response to the wave of calls of sympathy on Friday, when people heard of Mr Lenihan's death, his long-time secretary Marian Quinlan sent out an email to notify people of a chance to come and express their sadness and solidarity.

By the end of Saturday, up to 9,000 -- young and old -- had passed through the door with addresses from as far afield as Cork, Galway and Donegal.

The list included his brother Conor Lenihan and aunt Mary O'Rourke; friends such as former government chief whip Tom Kitt and his wife Jacinta; and Dail colleagues, including Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews. Appropriately, the visitors got to see a snapshot of the impressive constituency organisation that Mr Lenihan had built up over the past 15 years as a TD -- on a par with any politician in the country.

Constituency worker Howard Mahony, who ran as a Fianna Fail candidate in the last local elections, said Mr Lenihan just got the job done through solid work. From school buildings for the growing population to road improvements in the sprawling area, to even sorting out an extra stop for the No 37 bus, Mr Lenihan covered everything.

"It doesn't mean a lot on a national level but there were old people who couldn't get to town. Brian set it up. He'll be greatly missed. As a constituency man, which is how I knew him best, there was no one better," he said.

Mr Mahony maintained it was no accident Mr Lenihan held on to his seat in the general election, even if it did leave him as the only Fianna Fail TD remaining in Dublin.

"It was work on the ground. I canvassed in every area of this constituency. There was nowhere they can't turn around and say Brian hadn't done the work," he said.

"That's the reason he got elected. He just ticked the boxes before he went."

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