Friday 15 December 2017

Ethos of ‘country before self ’ even as cancer took its toll

As well as battling his illness, Lenihan was battling Cowen over Ireland’s future, writes Daniel McConnell

BY FEBRUARY 2010 Brian Lenihan had already become a familiar figure to the oncology staff at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin.

They had become used to him, the tall, dark haired and handsome man who constantly asked: “Will we be much longer? I have a meeting back in my office in 20 minutes.” Anxious doctors and nurses gently tried to persuade him that he must stay — that his health was the most important thing. They took extra care to protect his privacy as he underwent treatment for the pancreatic cancer but despite their pleas “to put himself first,” it was clear even at this stage that his primary concern was not for his own health, but for the job.

To a number of his closest confidants who witnessed the last 18 months of his life, this ethos of country before self remains the enduring remembrance of Brian Lenihan. For the first time, some of these have told how he coped with his illness, away from the media glare, on a day-to - day basis throughout 2010. The full extent of the stress he was under and the sheer toll the illness took on him at such a critical time is only now — four months after his death — emerging.

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