Tuesday 20 March 2018

I felt alone and bereft at hearing of nephew Brian's cancer, reveals Mary O'Rourke

Gareth Naughton

FORMER Fianna Fail minister Mary O'Rourke has revealed her ongoing grief over the death of her nephew Brian Lenihan from pancreatic cancer.

Mrs O'Rourke writes movingly about her final conversation with him in her auto- biography, 'Just Mary', which will hit shops on Friday.

Mr Lenihan (52), a former finance minister, died in 2011 six months after being diagnosed.

"About 10 days before he died, Brian called me and said, 'Mary, I'm sleeping all the time. I sleep 12 hours and I get up and then I want to sleep again'. Trying to be reassuring, I told him that sleep is good for one, which of course, we all know," she says.

Mrs O'Rourke also tells of the family's anger at TV3 for revealing the father of two's illness without warning.

"Even as we struggled with our grief, reeling from this terrible blow, TV3 chose to tell the world about Brian's cancer, in a startling 'breaking news'-style intervention by their political correspondent, Ursula Halligan.

''She broke the news, not just to the nation, but to the extended circle of Brian's family and friends."

The news was delivered with a "lack of sensitivity and finer feeling" and was very hard to bear, she writes.

"TV3 defended themselves, meanwhile, by saying that the public should know and that it was a matter of public interest. Of course, we were more than aware of the need for those in public life to be accountable in such situations, and Brian had always intended to give an account of himself after he had had the privacy of spending the few days of Christmas with his family."

Mrs O'Rourke says the period after Brian's diagnosis echoed the grief she had felt following the death of her husband Enda. "I felt alone. I felt bereft. I felt as if life was coming to an end," she writes.

In extracts published at the weekend, she reveals how she lovingly held Enda on the drive to the Mater Hospital in Dublin after finding him slumped in an armchair in their home in Athlone. He had suffered huge brain damage and never came out of a coma.

Irish Independent

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