She said after he died suddenly, while working on the Morris Tribunal, she was on her own. She found comfort in work and the support of her Fianna Fáil colleagues. Sometimes she finds life difficult without her husband of almost 18 years, she said.
“Obviously there are times when I am lonely and very alone, which is different from lonely.
“Elections are difficult... I found the last reshuffle very difficult, not because of the political element of it or the consequences but because you are facing into a whole new change,” she said.
A job which kept her busy has been her “salvation” but despite that she will never recover from the loss of her husband.
Ms Hanafin said she was lucky to have the support of her parents and her brother, Senator John Hanafin.
“I was on my own, with no children, and was very lucky to have my parents and John. I was lucky to have a job that I loved and I love,” she said.
She was speaking to RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan along with her father Des Hanafin, who admitted he worried about his daughter being on her own.
Ms Hanafin has become one of Fianna Fáil’s most prominent figures since Mr Leahy’s death but was recently moved from the Department of Social Welfare to Tourism and Culture. This was a perceived demotion. An assessment she disputed.
When her husband died she was the government chief whip. This meant sitting behind the then-taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, for all his Dáil appearances.
She found this to be a very public environment in which to live through her grief but the support was helpful.
“Very much the Fianna Fáil family were there and have been with me ever since,” she said.
The couple last spoke at 1am on the morning Mr Leahy died. Ms Hanafin was flying out to address a United Nations’ conference in South America. She was told of the news as her plane was about to taxi away from Amsterdam airport.
She had been trying to ring him while waiting for her connecting flight.
“The captain comes down to me and he said ‘there is message for you at the gate, you have to take your bags’, and I asked was I getting off the plane and he said ‘yes you are’.
“At the same time Alice’s [Ms Hanafin’s private secretary] phone rang and I could hear Alice on the phone asking, ‘are you sure of your information?.
“I just turned to her and said it’s Eamon and he’s dead... you just know these things by instinct,” she said.
The minister said she enjoys media work and being the Government spokesperson on difficult issues but admitted the Government had not been good enough at selling its message.