Family and friends join minister in determination to see off illness
MEMBERS of the Lenihan political dynasty rallied around in support of the Finance Minister yesterday as they hailed his "brave" and "courageous" public address to the nation about his cancer battle.
Junior Minister Conor Lenihan said his brother always made his country and his job his first priorities.
"He's always put his country and his work first, that's the way he is," Conor told the Irish Independent.
Conor himself suffered a health scare two years ago when he discovered a growth on his face.
The problem was diagnosed after a surgeon watched him on a TV interview and urged him to get it looked at and treated.
The growth was diagnosed as a benign tumour and was removed, but could have posed difficulties for the junior minister had it been left untreated.
Conor said last night there was little left for him to say about his brother's cancer condition following the Finance Minister's detailed interviews about the situation.
"He is determined to see through his work and overcome what's in front of him," Conor said.
Conor also thanked the hundreds of well-wishers who contacted members of the Lenihan family since news of his brother's diagnosis surfaced on St Stephen's Day.
"People have been very decent and nice," he said.
However, the Finance Minister's TD aunt, Mary O'Rourke, told a local radio station yesterday how she thought her nephew had died when she first saw the TV3 report on St Stephen's Day.
"I said he has died, I actually did. I just said he is dead and they didn't get word to us on time, because (the reporter) kept saying he was and he was, there was no is. I thought it was terrible because I thought he was dead, God forbid."
Ms O'Rourke condemned the broadcast and said if somebody close to the Finance Minister was listening and thought he was dead, "something is wrong with the reporting, isn't it?".
Although the news came as a shock to the nation, the Finance Minister's family had been informed of his illness three days before Christmas.
Ms O'Rourke said that her nephew's decision to address the nation about his condition was "very brave and courageous".
"Could he have made things any clearer than he did really? He said he'll have to beat it or it will beat him," she said.
Ms O'Rourke has spoken publicly about her own difficulties and the loneliness she felt when she buried her husband, Enda, who passed away in 2001 after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Her brother, Brian Lenihan Snr, lost a brave battle with liver problems in 1995, despite a liver transplant in the Mayo Clinic in the US six years prior to his passing.
Her five-year-old nephew Mark -- a brother to Conor and Brian Jnr -- died in the 1960s following a battle with leukemia. The Finance Minister was just six years old at the time.