MARY O’ROURKE has told how her late nephew Brian Lenihan put in gruelling 17-hour days at his office after his devastating cancer diagnosis.
A new RTÉ documentary on his life has revealed how those closest to the Fianna Fáil politician believe his double battle to fight the disease and save the country from economic ruin prolonged his life.
It also reveals how the finance minister did briefly contemplate giving up his government post when doctors first broke the news of his illness to him, but his sense of duty kicked in.
In the revealing documentary Cloch Le Carn, family and friends of the minister also tell of his anger at the manner in which the news of his cancer was broken to the country on St Stephen’s Day in 2010.
Mary O’Rourke said her nephew put in incredible hours in his dying days in a desperate bid to save Ireland from economic disaster.
“Sometimes it affected him deeply but they put in a couch in his office and he was able to lie on that couch. But he would work from 7am until 11 or 12 at night. He just worked. That time he had 24 pieces of legislation that he brought in,” she said.
His 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer sadly ended in June, 2011 at the age of 52.
She believes the people of Ireland willed the finance minister to keep on living, especially on the day when he became the first Fianna Fáil politician to be invited into Fine Gael heartland to give the Béal na Bláth oration in August 2010.
“I can see him on the platform and he spoke and he was in the height of his prowess. He looked good, he spoke great and we forget for that afternoon that he was living under a fatal health diagnosis.
“The people willed him to live and pressed in on him. I talked to so many that day and they said ‘Ah No, he looks too good, he’s not going to die, he looks too good’.”
But she knew instinctively that he had died when his mother, Ann, phoned her one early morning.
“We knew he was on the last lap of life, but I thought that lap could be stretched a bit. And you know rural people the way they say, ‘If he got a few days of sunshine he will be made up’.
“I thought that maybe he would get a few more months. It was still a huge shock. I got the call very early in the morning. I just said immediately ‘Brian’s dead’ and she said ‘yes he is’ and he was.”
She also told how she is now glad she didn’t retain her Dáil seat as she would miss too much her nephew’s presence in the corridors of power.
* Cloch Le Carn — Brian Lenihan will be shown on RTÉ 1 tonight at 8.35pm.
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