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Brian Lenihan dead from pancreatic cancer at 52


Brian Lenihan pictured in April this year with party leader Michael Martin at the  annual Fianna Fail Easter Rising 1916 Commeration in Arbour Hill, Dublin. Photo: Martin Nolan

Brian Lenihan pictured in April this year with party leader Michael Martin at the annual Fianna Fail Easter Rising 1916 Commeration in Arbour Hill, Dublin. Photo: Martin Nolan


Former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today. Mr Lenihan was diagnosed with the disease in December 2009 and his condition had deteriorated severely in recent weeks. He died early today at his west Dublin home surrounded by his family.

He is survived by his wife, circuit court judge Patricia Ryan and their two teenage children Tom and Claire, his mother Ann, brothers, Conor, Niall and Paul and sister Anita.

His aunt Mary O’Rourke said today that she was devastated by the death of her nephew.

“It’s all over. It’s unbelievable. We knew he was on the last lap but we thought he would get more time,” she told Pat Kenny on RTE radio today.

She said that he had died at home: “Where else would we all like to pass away but at home.”

“Thank you for all and all the love and respect he got and deserved. He always worked for the country and for the best of Ireland.”

“I just feel my life had almost ended. I really do.”

Mr Lenihan, who turned 52 on May 21, was first elected as a Fianna Fail TD for Dublin West in 1996 and served as Minister for Finance from 2008 until February this year. He was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform from 2007 – 2008.

He was admitted to hospital in mid December 2009 complaining of insomnia and it was initially thought that he was suffering from a hernia problem. However, on December 26 2009 TV3 reported that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The report generated much debate about the public’s right to know about a politician’s private affairs and generated controversy over the timing of the revelation at Christmas.

In January 2010 he confirmed that he had been diagnosed with a cancerous growth at the entrance to the pancreas, and would need intensive treatment.

In an interview last September Mr Lenihan said his cancer had stabilised and imposed “no clear or immediate danger” to him.

He underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy in June 2010 and while the treatment was gruelling he had emerged with a positive attitude.

“My energy levels are much better. I am now in a position to get on with the important decisions that have to be taken in this country ...of course, when you have a cancer you are always at risk,” he said.

When asked in September if his condition had improved, he replied: “It has improved somewhat but like all cancers it’s still there. It hasn’t gone away and it’s a danger. But it’s not an immediate or clear or present danger to me.” He said he would not require treatment for the rest of the year.

Just last month he laughed off rumours of his demise saying: “I’m still here.”

After another stay at the Mater Private Hospital in May, his constituency spokesman called on friends and party members to continue to show their support for Mr Lenihan.

"Brian would like to thank everybody for their support and best wishes and he hopes to be back in action very soon," the message said.

Brian Lenihan was part of one of Ireland’s most significant political dynasties.

His father Brian senior served in a range of cabinet positions, including Tanaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Justice. He died in 1995 from a liver complaint after receiving a liver transplant in the USA. Brian junior won his seat in the by election of 1996.

Brian’s grandfather Patrick Lenihan served as a Fianna Fail TD and his aunt Mary O’Rourke also served in cabinet. His brother Conor Lenihan was a Minister for state in the last Fianna Fail government.

Brian Lenihan was educated at Belvedere College, Trinity and Cambridge University.

His aunt Mary O'Rourke spoke last year of the miserable days after her family's "torch bearer" revealed he had cancer.

She has described her "immense" shock at hearing of her nephew's life-threatening illness just days before Christmas 2009.

"Brian had a tummy ache which he could not identify and for a diagnosis he was sent by his local doctor to the Mater so they would do a scan, and very shortly after that we heard the dire result," Ms O'Rourke said.

"The force of it hit us about the 21st and 22nd of December (2009). So for Brian's own family, and then for the wider Lenihan family, Christmas of that time will never be forgotten.

"It was a double blow because in Brian we see all of the fine traits of his father Brian and his mother Ann.

"In political terms Brian (snr) will always be Camelot and now with Brian (snr) gone, young Brian was the torch bearer for the family. Christmas was miserable and day by day the thorns struck deep and long.

"I thought a lot and cried a lot and I went back to my childish prayer of the Memorare, which seems to give me great comfort when said aloud."

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