The progeny of the man who tried to sabotage the Anglo-Irish Agreement in America at the behest of a badly outmanoeuvred Charles Haughey could be said to know a thing or two about tribal self-assertion.
And yet, that mould was broken by Brian Lenihan fils, in life as much as in death.
The most resonant aspect of his removal last week was the way the service drew greedily on a variety of complex cultural currents so as to convey the subtlety of the myriad-minded man being mourned. Lenihan emerged in death as a man of unusual intellectual sensitivities.
This Irish-speaking son of Haughey's diplomatic lieutenant was a devotee of the King James Bible, a book immortalised by James Joyce's Ulysses when he has a character refer to that extraordinary composition as "the secret of England's greatness".
In death Lenihan reminded us of a remarkable strand in modern Irish intellectual history, this being the profound connection between the Protestant faith and the development of the Irish language since the Elizabethan era.
This tradition was obscured during the first few decades of independence due to the contempt and prejudice of scholars like Daniel Corkery who sought to construct a sectarian apartheid in Irish cultural history.
In his book on Synge, Corkery explained that "by Irish literature we mean the literature written in the Irish language and that alone".
This perished definition was a euphemism for sectarian paranoia, and it allowed him to dismiss the "intrinsically weakling hearts" of all the major literary classics written in English.
The menacing tone in that kind of cultural criticism also blinded him, of course, to the tradition gently evoked in Lenihan's funeral, the Irish-speaking Protestant world of TCD's Parson Goodman, the great novelist William Carleton and Ventry's Reverend Charles Gayer, a progressive pastor who won the loyalty of hundreds of Catholic paupers by ministering to them in their native Irish in the 1840s.
In the remarkable transcript of the libel trial that broke over Gayer's head when the Catholic press accused him of malicious souperism in 1845, some of the poorest of the poor Catholics of Ventry came to defend him.
One convert in Gayer's trial denied the idea that his poverty had been used as a spiritual lever, and said simply "it was the Word of God that led me to seek for myself from that [point] out. I did not get the assistance of any human being". Gayer's colleague Rev Thomas Moriarty said simply: "All my services are in Irish -- I preach in Irish, baptise children in Irish, and bury the dead in Irish. I am an Irishman [laughter in court]."
These Irish speakers saw themselves like Milton's "Sons of Light", as proud adherents to a faith that tended to them in their own language. They told the libel court that their "children are beginning to think for themselves, nor shall priestly execration extinguish the light of gospel truth".
Eoghan Harris's play Souper Sullivan recounted the equally heroic travails of William Allen Fisher, the Protestant rector of Kilmoe on the Mizen Head, who preached in Irish to the wretched of the earth during the Famine and won the loyalty of over 600 Catholic converts. Fisher's son-in-law, Standish O'Grady, described in his book Forty Years in Church of Ireland how Fisher and his new flock built a church after English Quakers offered relief money with the proviso that it only be spent on a public building that directly benefited the most destitute labourers. They built a church called Teampall na mBocht, a monument to what Thomas Carlyle termed "the strength of hunger", and it is still standing sentinel today on the Atlantic seaboard between Schull and Goleen.
One of the final prayers in Lenihan's service before he was buried in a Protestant graveyard came appropriately enough from John Henry Newman, another earnest of the former finance minister's sensitivity to historical dialectic, "the universal language" as Joyce phrased it once again in Ulysses.
Newman's via dolorosa from the gaunt asperities of Victorian evangelicalism to the mysterious highlands of Roman Catholic romanticism had enormous traction in Ireland. O'Grady tells the story of Rev Fisher's fascination with Newman's forlorn scholarly attempt to preserve the specifically Catholic element within British Anglicanism without utterly deranging the Elizabethan compromise.
O'Grady writes that Fisher "was on the verge of Rome when Newman's Tract 90 arrested him. . . and he tied up the tracts, put them out of reach on the top of his bookcase, and never more opened them".
Just like his contemporary William Carleton, another complex Irish-speaking Protestant who became the poor man's tribune, Fisher's submerged Catholic sensibilities would be crucial in helping him to minister to poor, semi-literate peasants at a time of immense distress.
There is a rough symmetry in the way Lenihan's final public performance evoked these pluralistic ghosts. He broke a lance or two for the minority faith as well in his Beal na Blath speech last year, when he defied the Ken Loach school of history to remind people that between 1919 and 1923 "many people with little or no connection to the struggle died or suffered by accident, or because of where they worked or where they worshipped".
Newman thought that affective rhetoric was the highest art. His cardinal's seal bore a motto that defined this process, cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart.
In weary life as much as during his final oblivion, Brian Lenihan did Newman proud.
JP McCarthy holds a PhD in history from Oxford