Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was cut down in his prime, but was not afraid of death, Fr Eugene Kennedy, chief concelebrant at his funeral mass in Dublin said today.
His only concern was for his family, Fr Kennedy told the congregation of over 1,000 at St Mochtna’s Church, in Porterstown.
And he said that Brian Lenihan had wanted a simple service ‘’with no frills.’’
The church, the churchyard and the nearby parish hall where a telecast of the service was played, were thronged with mourners who came to pay their last respects to Mr Lenihan (52) who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last Friday.
Mourners broke into spontaneous applause as the Lenihan family arrived at the church shortly after 11am. Mr Lenihan is mourned by his wife Patricia Ryan, teenage children Tom and Claire, his mother Anne, his brothers Conor, Niall and Paul, sister Anita and aunt Mary O’Rourke.
In a moving eulogy former Attorney General Paul Gallagher paid tribute to Mr Lenihan's patriotism and courage in the face of illness which he described as "awesome and inspiring."
"For Brian, quitting was never an option," he said.
"He was a master of all the talents, he was an inspiration to us all, and he was a great patriot."
He said that politics "excited every neuron and permeated every fibre" of the late finance minister, but he was also a devoted family man.
"There were three qualities that defined Brian and his public service: duty, honour and country," he said.
"The other defining quality was his utter devotion to, and love for, his family.
Mr Gallagher said Mr Lenihan faced the most daunting and awful challenges as finance minister, which needed decisions to be made without guidance or hesitation.
But he faced them without flinching from the task, he said.
"He was imbued with hope, he was imbued with confidence and he was imbued with courage."
He said Mr Lenihan displayed that same courage and fortitude when diagnosed with the illness which was to claim his life.
"If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed such courage was possible," he added.
Remembering Mr Lenihan, Fr Kennedy said that "on behalf of muintir atha cliath 15 we were deeply indebted to Brian who always had care and concern for us. "He cared for us, even when he was under the great burden of national issues and latterly with failing health."
"As the fastest growing suburb in western Europe local facilities such as our schools, churches and community ventures, and recently St Francis Hospice in Blanchardstown, got the best attention from Brian and benefitted us all enormously. Indeed the new hospice will remain a monument to his work. What a cruel irony that he was amongst its first homecare patients."
In all of that he didn't look for any media space or an ounce of public credit, Fr Kennedy added.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, President Mary McAleese and Senator Martin McAleese led Government ministers, TDs from all sides of the Dail, businss people, friends and neighbours in attendance at the funeral mass at the 160-seater church. Harpists Mary and Teresa O’Donnell played at the ceremony.
Accompanied by a guard of honour, the coffin left St Mochta's Church after the funeral mass for a private burial at St David’s in Kilsallaghan.
Mr Lenihan’s removal last night was attended by four of the country's five surviving ex-Taoisigh.
Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds, along with the oldest surviving ex-Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, were among hundreds of people who paid their respects.
But the strongest demonstration of the respect Mr Lenihan had earned during his political career was the Fianna Fail guard of honour he was given as his body was taken into the church at 6pm.
It was led by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who had defeated Mr Lenihan in the leadership contest just four months ago, and included many of those who had lost their Dail seats at the General Election, such as Dublin South East TD Chris Andrews, Dublin South West TD Charlie O'Connor and Limerick West TD John Cregan.
There were also former cabinet colleagues of Mr Lenihan such as Tony Killeen -- who retired to fight his own battle with cancer -- Brendan Smyth, Eamon O Cuiv, Mary Hanafin, Noel Dempsey, Joe Walshe and John O'Donoghue. Former PD leader Michael McDowell, who served with Mr Lenihan in Government, was there, as well as former Green Party leader John Gormley.
President Mary McAleese and her husband, newly appointed senator Martin McAleese, were inside in the church, alongside Dublin Archbiship Diarmuid Martin and Bishop John Kirby.
And there were also those with a financial background -- former Central Bank governor John Hurley, who advised Mr Lenihan on the state banking guarantee, and Mr Lenihan's former trusted adviser, economist Alan Aherne.
The church where Mr Lenihan had regularly attended Mass with his family was too small to fit many of the mourners, who gathered silently in the grounds outside.
Mr Lenihan's popularity with politicians from other parties was reflected by the presence of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his aide-de-camp, as he was at a meeting in Cork. Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and Dublin South TD Alex White were there to represent Labour.
Fine Gael was represented by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Junior Minister Brian Hayes and Dublin Mid-West TD Derek Keating, among others.