Friday 23 February 2018

Tears flow for Brian as he starts his final journey

Brian Lenihan's brother Conor, daughter Claire, wife Patricia and son Tom follow his coffin at his removal last night
Brian Lenihan's remains are carried into St Mochta's church in Porterstown, Dublin, last night
The removal of the former finance minister from Jennings Funeral Home in Blanchardstown
Brian Lenihan's brother Conor with their mother Ann
Respected: Brian Lenihan
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

There wasn't a sound on the narrow winding country lane, save for the rustle of the evening breeze through the sun-dappled canopy of trees circling the small church, as Brian Lenihan came home for the last time.

And he made his final homecoming journey in the bosom of his two families.

Walking behind his coffin draped in the Tricolour were his heartbroken kin -- his wife Patricia; his children Tom and Claire; his mother Ann; his brothers Conor, Niall and Paul; his sister Anita; and his aunt Mary O'Rourke.

The many smiles and laughter prompted over the past few days by shared memories of Brian melted away in the face of their numbed grief.

They were such a close and loving family, the rock to which Brian anchored himself when the relentless waves of Irish woes crashed down on him repeatedly.

During the short ceremony, celebrant and family friend Fr Eugene Kennedy told the packed congregation: "Ten days before he died, Brian said to me he was not worried about his dying. His sole concern was the pain and distress it was going to cause to you, Patricia, and to Claire and Tom and others."

But he was surrounded, too, by his wider clan -- the Fianna Fail family, the party through which his DNA and that of his father, grandfather, aunt and brother rang strong over five decades of Irish political life.

"The tribe is all here," remarked one Fianna Fail member as he surveyed the river of people flowing down the narrow road outside St Mochta's Church in Porterstown, a leafy village in the heart of Brian's Dublin West constituency.

And the tribe turned up in numbers. The Fianna Fail family had been scattered into the four winds at the Day of Reckoning that was the general election in March. The clan was left in tatters, its ranks depleted and the remaining members left demoralised and bewildered.

But one of their own had fallen. And he was one of their bravest -- a stalwart who battled against a deadly disease, who never ceased his titanic battle to find a way back from the economic abyss. He was the man who one day may have been chieftain of the clan, who looked beyond the partisanship of his party and earned respect right across the political divide.

He could have been so many things, had death not claimed him at the age of 52. But the tribe came from all directions to pay tribute to all the things he had achieved, to express their affection and respect.

And to say farewell to their last Dublin TD, the only member of their clan from the capital who had been voted back into office by the electorate.

And so as the cortege stopped outside the church, the Fianna Fail family packed into the pews of the small church where Brian attended Mass, and also formed a guard of honour, lining the roadway and the small front yard up to the church door where Dublin Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin waited for Brian and his grief-stricken family.

President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin attended, too, but the church grounds were also filled with local people -- constituents who had met him, or nodded at him on the street, or who had gone to him with some problem or the other.

And for the first time during a long and sorrowful day, this profound silence fell. For just a short distance away in Blanchardstown village, outside Jennings Funeral Home where Brian's remains had reposed since 10 yesterday morning, the street outside had buzzed with chat.

Everyone had a story about Brian, and many had travelled from the four corners of Ireland to stand in line and share memories of the man in the mellow sunshine.

There were tales of quiet acts of kindness, of spontaneous outbreaks of craic, of spirited debates and also of fleeting conversations which managed to leave a deep impression on those who found themselves at the sharp end of a Brian Lenihan charm offensive.

Emer Parkinson had driven up from Kenmare yesterday morning with her baby in tow to pay her respects. She had worked for him during one of the election campaigns when she was 16. She was with her mother, Peg Leogue, who had nursed Brian Lenihan senior in the Mater Hospital after his liver transplant.

"They're a lovely family," said Peg, who lives in Castleknock. "And Brian junior was a dote -- before he was a politician he was always a gentleman."

Also queueing to pay his respects was Sean Haughey, scion of that other Irish political dynasty. Poignantly, yesterday was also the fifth anniversary of the death of his father, Charlie, and he and his mother Maureen had visited his grave earlier in the day. Sean recalled how after his father's death, he had approached Brian in the Dail chamber, seeking to heal the bitterness between the two families.

"It was just before a vote, and I asked him would he do a reading at my father's funeral, and he just burst out crying," said Sean.

"Afterwards he said that it had meant a great deal to him."

Standing quietly at the edge of the large crowd at the funeral home was Rory Montgomery, Ireland's ambassador at the EU in Brussels. Brian had been best man at Rory's wedding, and the pair had been friends since their first year in college.

"We've been friends for 34 years," he said. "We roomed together in Trinity and I taught him how to made spaghetti bolognese," said Rory.

As the ceremony at St Mochta's Church drew to a close, Dr Martin read out a short prayer by Cardinal John Henry Newman which had been a favourite of Brian's.

"May He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy, may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at least".

Outside, the evening shadows lengthened.

At last, Brian Lenihan's busy world is hushed, and his work is done.

Irish Independent

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