Mary Coughlan leads tributes to the late Brian Lenihan

Former Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, led tributes yesterday to Brian Lenihan who died at his home in West Dublin in the early hours of Friday morning.

Former Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, led tributes yesterday to Brian Lenihan who died at his home in West Dublin in the early hours of Friday morning.

The former Minister for Finance, who was 52, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2009. The late Mr Lenihan had several family connections here in the county.

“It’s a very sad time for his family, his friends and all the people in the party,” Mary Coughlan said.

“He had the ability to absorb a brief in a very, very short period of time. His intellect was something so many people have admired. He was selfless in that he put the country first before himself. He threw himself into his brief when he was appointed to all of his ministries, and I suppose the most challenging of those was the ministry for finance.

“We shouldn’t forget the man either. He was convivial and charming and he loved people. He had a great affinity Donegal, having holidayed here many times and his mother having family here. From a convivial point of view he was wonderful company, a great story-teller and loved meeting people, regardless of who they were, they were so, so important to him.”

She added: “His illness was something he really took by the scruff of the neck and he threw himself into his work. There were times when Mary Hanafin would say she used to worry about the fact that he was doing too much.

“He had a great interest in education, in social welfare and in all of the briefs. He would have read many of the briefs that were sent to him prior to preparation for the budget. He had his own ideas about how things should be. After cabinet we’d have long conversations about how he saw how the way nation should be and how we should support the young people particularly. He had an overall grasp of everyone’s brief and everyone’s department. He took a lot of time to meet people at all levels in his department and knew their views. While he had his own views and his own perspectives, he always had a great respect for those who had a differing views.”

Former Letterkenny-based government minister and good friend, Jim McDaid, said Brian Lenihan was admired and respected by everyone.

“I am deeply by the news of his death. It has still come as a bit of shock even though he has been battling cancer for the past year and half, “ he commented.

“Brian was our shining star and we looked to him to get us out of the demise that he was in. It is a sad day for Ireland and a sad day for our party.”

Donegal Fianna Fail Senator, Brian O’Domhnaill, said he, too, was deeply saddened by the passing of his party colleague.

“Brian has fought a brave and courageous battle with a serious illness over the past eighteen months. During the time of his illness Brian continued to perform his public duties showing his commitment to tackling the country’s economic crisis and his commitment in doing his utmost for the Irish people,” he said.

“Brian Lenihan was an absolutely outstanding public representative of this generation. He has a formidable intellect and was a gifted communicator.

“He served first as Minister of State for Children and Brian was a conscientious and compassionate Children’s Minister and he brought forward a number of fresh and valuable policies relating to child protection, childcare and youth justice,” he added.

“In June 2007, Brian Lenihan was appointed Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and from there Brian was appointed the Minister for Finance in May 2008 and faced events at a scale and pace of magnitude that no other Irish Minister has ever previously had to contend. Brian did an outstanding job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Brian’s untimely death robs this country of a hugely talented politician and someone who had so much more to give. “

Brian Lenihan is survived by his wife, circuit court judge Patricia Ryan and their two teenage children Tom and Claire, his mother Ann, brothers, Conor, Niall and Paul and sister Anita. His funeral is shcheduled to take place on Tuesday.