Athlone native Brian Lenihan remembered on tenth anniversary of his passing
Brian Lenihan, the former Minister for Finance, is being remembered in a special way today on the tenth anniversary of his passing.
Mr Lenihan, one of the key figures in the handling of the fallout from Ireland's post-Celtic Tiger economic collapse, died on June 10, 2011, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was just 52 years of age.
He grew up in Athlone, and often spoke fondly about his roots in the town. A book of condolence which was opened in Athlone Civic Centre in the aftermath of his passing attracted well over 1,000 signatures.
Tomorrow (Friday) evening, Fianna Fáil is hosting a special webinar for its members which will reflect on Mr Lenihan's contribution to public life.
Speakers at the event will include the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and Mr Lenihan's aunt, Mary O'Rourke.
In an interview with RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan in 2009, Mr Lenihan reminisced about his "fantastic" Athlone childhood.
The then-Finance Minister revealed that he was a follower of Athlone Town FC and spoke with "a very heavy Athlone accent" for much of his youth.
He also praised the national school education he received from the Marist Brothers in the town and recalled being taught Latin by his aunt, Ms O'Rourke.
Mr Lenihan's family moved from Athlone to Dublin when he was twelve years of age but the Minister said he had wonderful memories of his time in the town.
When asked to pick a song to play on the progamme, he selected 'I Hear You Calling Me' by John McCormack.
"I picked the song by John McCormack because of the Athlone connection. I spent my first twelve years in the town and I've a fantastic memory of that," he said.
"I often think people look at me as a bourgeois Dubliner, a barrister, and all of that is in me of course.... but when I moved to Dublin at twelve everyone called me a 'culchie' and I had a very heavy Athlone accent.
"I used to always refer to lorries as 'lurries' throughout my teenage years, which is a very Midland accent, and I just have so many happy memories of my early childhood. I used to sing at Mass in Latin in the 1960s, but apart from that I played soccer.
"Athlone was a great soccer town and in those years the division between the town and the country was very strong.
"I was a soccer fanatic and I'd catch excursion trains to see Leinster Senior League games in Tolka Park or Dalymount. I loved following Athlone Town as a team and I kept that up in my teenage years."
Another change he noted involved the "intense religiosity" of his youth in Athlone.
"In a town like Athlone in the 1960s the religious atmosphere was very, very intense. There were so many priests, so many nuns, so much emphasis on the religious experience... I think people express their faith in a more personal way nowadays."
He also talked about what it had been like to grow up as the son of a prominent politician, Brian Lenihan Snr.
"In Athlone we lived in a house outside the town, not too far outside town, and there were traffic jams outside the town on Saturday as people queued up to see my father," he said.
"People stayed in bedrooms and in all the rooms of the house to queue up to see him in his office. So it was a very intense upbringing for a child of a political household."
Mr Lenihan's last public appearance prior to his passing was on March 29, 2011, when he attended a ceremony at Athlone IT which saw a Distinguished Fellowship being conferred on his aunt, Mary.
On social media earlier today one of Ms O'Rourke's sons, the current Mayor of Athlone Aengus O'Rourke, posted a picture of himself and Brian Lenihan, whom he described as "the ultimate patriot".
"A giant of a man in many ways. A huge loss to us all, to politics and to Ireland - the ultimate patriot. He inspires me every day. Ten years gone today," wrote Cllr O'Rourke.