THE removal of former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was attended last night 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 at St Mochtna's Church in Porterstown in west Dublin.
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.
The chief celebrant, Fr Eugene Kennedy, spoke for the many constituents of Mr Lenihan in Dublin West who turned up at for the removal ceremony. He said Mr Lenihan had always cared for them even when he had national problems and his personal health to look after.
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.
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