Saturday 19 August 2017

James Downey: Nation mourns death of a compassionate patriot

Brian Lenihan in his office in the Department of Finance last year, with a picture of Jack Lynch in the background Photo: DAVID CONACHY
Brian Lenihan in his office in the Department of Finance last year, with a picture of Jack Lynch in the background Photo: DAVID CONACHY
James Downey

James Downey

BRIAN Lenihan belonged to a family of extraordinary quality and talents, and one afflicted by more than the normal share of the misfortunes that are the common lot of humanity. These misfortunes have always been met with style and courage, and never more so than in his own case.

Eighteen months ago, the nation was shocked to learn that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Yet he continued in the most difficult job in the Fianna Fail-Green coalition -- perhaps the most difficult job in the country -- in the face of an unparalleled, and endlessly worsening, financial crisis. Throughout every setback, every disaster, he behaved with the fortitude that yesterday evoked a national flood of tears, and an equal flood of admiration. The Lenihans are a remarkable family, one might almost say unique. They are frequently described as part of the "Fianna Fail aristocracy". The description is accurate. But they are more than that.

Brian's grandfather Paddy Lenihan fought in the War of Independence and in the Civil War -- on the pro-Treaty side. Having grown disillusioned with the Cumann na nGaedheal government, he developed an admiration for Sean Lemass and joined Fianna Fail. He pursued several careers, as a teacher, a civil servant, a manufacturer and a hotel owner, and briefly became a Dail deputy late in life.

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