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Shock and sadness as his voting public recall their lost TD

JUST days before he died, Brian Lenihan faced death with a fearless humour.

"Last Monday, two ladies from the local hospice came to talk to him about death," recalled a great friend Eugene Garrihy from Castleknock, Dublin.

"He turned to me afterwards and said, 'It's safe to say I know a lot more about death than they do' and he laughed."

Yesterday the laughter was stilled, but the memories and respect that people held for Brian Lenihan was evident as over 2,000 people filed through his constituency office in Castleknock to sign the book of condolences opened in his honour.

"I've lost a dear and good friend and colleague," said an emotional Marian Quinlan, his secretary for 15 years, who organised yesterday's commemoration.

Speaking from his former office, she told how he enjoyed the royal wedding, singing along to some of the hymns, and watched the visit of Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama to Ireland.

"He was glued to the TV for all three events," she said.

Friends and admirers spoke about his dedication to his job and how he often slept in Government Buildings, even when he was very ill.

Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, revealed how he was leaving Leinster House at 7am to go home to bed after an all-night sitting of the Dail when he met Brian Lenihan at the gates on Kildare Street, waiting for his ministerial car to take him to a 9am engagement down the country.

A photograph of Brian Lenihan at what he believed was the pinnacle of his career -- giving the oration at the Beal na mBlath commemoration for Michael Collins -- greeted people who came in their thousands to pay their respects in his Dublin West constituency yesterday.

From midday, people gathered at his constituency office in the Laurel Lodge shopping centre in Castleknock under a cloudy sky to queue to write in a book of condolences to show their support for his devastated family and for him.

Many spoke of Mr Lenihan's bravery and honesty, his ethic of hard work, his bright intelligence and devotion to his constituency.

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There were few words to the media from members of his distraught family, who were visibly upset.

His normally loquacious brother Conor said he was "grand" but declined interviews. However, he was able to chat to the public and thank them for coming.

His aunt Mary O'Rourke, clad in black, told supporters that she was shocked at her nephew's death.

She went from there to visit Mr Lenihan's wife and family and thanked the media for being respectful at the scene.

Others in attendance wanted to tell of their admiration and respect for the former Finance Minister.

Teresa O'Connor, who said she lived near where Brian's children were minded when they were younger, said she had met him in the canvass in the snow during the last general election.

"I also was talking to him about a month ago and he was in great form. I just loved him. He will be sadly missed in the constituency," she said.

Ironically, she, along with others, praised his role in securing a six-acre site for a new hospice at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.

"Even when he was ill, he showed up at events," said Philip Bergin. "He was everywhere. He would turn up at the opening of an envelope because he wanted to see things through."

Mr Bergin also praised his role in getting a 20-acre site for the local hurling and football club.

Howard Malony, who worked for two years for Mr Lenihan, said he had a capacity to remember minute detail.

"There was nowhere to hide," he laughed. "He had a huge work rate and the intellect to do it. He would be getting on a plane to Brussels and he would ring me to ask me what happened to that fence in Mulhuddart."

Clare Keenan Daffy, a member of the Kevin Barry cumann, said it would be a while before his legacy was realised but that he had worked at his last portfolio of Finance day and night and despite his illness he had never given in.

"He was not afraid of passing. He had his faith," she said, adding that his honesty shone through everything he did.

Alice Lynch from Park Avenue, Castleknock, said her son Ciaran had been in school with Mr Lenihan's son Tom in Belvedere.

She had met him in the college about eight weeks ago and he was very ill.

"It's just so sad. He was such a young man. He always had a good word for people."

A long-time friend, Margaret Kenny, said Dublin West had never let him down and he had put the constituency before his health.

"He would not let anyone down. He was the most honest man who ever went into the Dail," she said.

Margaret, from Clonsilla Road in Blanchardstown, said: "It's shocking. We were expecting this but it's still a shock when the day comes."

Describing him as the best friend she had, Margaret said her thoughts were with his "lovely, decent, family".

Many other current and former politicians, including Tom Kitt and his wife Jacinta, also paid their respects.

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