Friday, June 10, 2011

Brian Lenihan RIP


“It’s part of the Lenihan DNA” - that is what I was always told when I questioned why Brian Lenihan contested the last general election despite his cancer diagnosis.

It was a mark of the man that despite the massive uphill struggle he was going through with his cancer battle that he insisted that life continue as normal.

And politics was in his blood.

Any other person, when dealt a devastating diagnosis like Lenihan was, would have retired to enjoy what they had left of their lives.

But not Brian Lenihan - because ‘it was part of the Lenihan DNA’.

The famous Lenihan DNA was carved out by Brian’s father, Brian Snr, who publicly suffered through his own health demons as a Minister.

Brian Jnr was no different - he had a job to do and cancer was not going to stop him.

Behind all of the politics, Brian Lenihan was an inherently nice and decent guy.

He had a few words for everyone and while he might be rushing here and there, he became a master in walking and talking.

In the last Government, he was given the nickname ‘Brainy Lenihan’ because of his massive intellect and his ability to read into a brief in no time.

But that intellect carried into his personal persona too - he was charming company, funny, witty and warm. People gravitated towards him, they wanted to be part of whatever the conversation was.

His time as Minister for Children has been lauded by Childrens’ Rights advocates as a turning point.

During his five years in that post, he was responsible for the creation of the Office of the Minister for Children, the appointment of Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children, the commencement of the National Longitudinal Survey, rigorous and serious engagement with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child process and reforms in the areas of youth justice and early years education to name but a few.

His time as Minister for Justice was brief - but it was something he relished. The law was part and parcel of his make up and he enjoyed getting stuck into this portfolio.

His promotion by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen to the Department of Finance in May 2008 was a huge leap - but by no means an impossible leap - for Brian Lenihan.

He was taking over a poisoned chalice and a chalice that would shape his legacy.

The economy was going down the toilet and of the entire Fianna Fail team, Lenihan was the best equipped to try and steer the ship to some level of safety.

History will, no doubt, judge his role in Ireland’s economic crisis. But Brian Lenihan would want for nothing less.

He put his country ahead of his personal well-being at a time of huge suffering.

He was a true patriot - it is part of his DNA.

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