Mr Lenihan was born to a political heavyweight – his father, Brian Lenihan Senior, was a cabinet minister for more than 25 years. His aunt, Mary O’Rourke has also held high office including a stint as a cabinet minister and his brother is a politician as well.
Mr Lenihan got involved in his first election campaign in 1974 aged 15 – and says that during the four-week election campaign for his father he “learned more in that time about politics than before or since”. He shone academically, studying law at Trinity College, Dublin, and then Cambridge University, before being called to the Irish Bar and going on to spend years in the legal profession.
But he was unable to ignore his political calling. In 1996 he was elected for the Dail, the Irish parliament, in his father’s Dublin West constituency in a by-election triggered by his father’s death, promising to abolish water rates and fight crime, drugs and high taxes.
He went on on to hold three ministerial portfolios – becoming children’s minister in 2002 and justice minister in 2007.
His announcement, in January 2010 (after the story first broke on TV3), that he was to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer while continuing to perform his essential ministerial duties, saw him saluted in the media for his “dignity and determination”.
Although he occasionally referred to his condition – “one day I had a pain in my stomach, the next day a life-threatening condition” – Mr Lenihan was loath to comment about his illness.
But in September 2010 he revealed he had finished his treatment in June, and said the cancer had “stabilised” but remained “a danger”.
Eilish O’Regan, health correspondent for the Irish Independent , said Mr Lenihan showed great courage.
“It does appear that he has been very brave. The treatment was very debilitating but he was able to schedule it so that he wasn’t missing work – although of course he had to make some allowances. But he was still very busy – and obviously it took up a lot of energy. That’s why he was delighted when the treatment was over.”
Mr Lenihan’s positive frame of mind that summer following the end of his treatment is illustrated, Ms O’Regan says, by an anecdote. Mr Lenihan climbed the 796m (2,605ft) Irish peak Mount Leinster, and rang his aunt to tell her that he had reached the summit.
“It was symbolic,” Ms O’Regan says.