French Minister for Finance Christine Lagarde has paid tribute to her former Irish counterpart Brian Lenihan ahead of his funeral.
Former Minister Lenihan will be buried in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock on Tuesday morning after losing his short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Lagarde, favorite to become the new head of the International Monetary Fund, described the 52-year-old Fianna Fail deputy as ‘heroic’.
She told Irish national radio: “Brian Lenihan was heroic and a political figure to whom history will be kind. He was calm, solid and very analytical when we had major issues.
“He was as good as you can think. He was extremely good for the country.
“I cannot think of anybody who did not like Brian.”
Lenihan and Lagarde worked closely on the EU/IMF rescue package when the Celtic Tiger collapsed towards the end of his eventful reign as Finance Minister.
“We went through one rescue package after the other, one financial stability fund after the other, and he was always a “We spoke in English and French because Brian was a very good French speaker. He liked France and I like Ireland, so we often shared views.”
The French politician also praised Lenihan’s dedication to his job, even when he became ill just over a year ago.
“Brian kept coming to meetings from the day he had announced he was suffering from cancer,” said Lagarde. “Sometimes he looked a little fragile and a little bit frail, but it did not ever stop him making the point and arguing his case and defending Ireland. Until the very last day, he was on board.”.
However, Lagarde did admit that it was ‘a bit of a shock’ when Lenihan rang her in September 2008 to tell her about the bank guarantee scheme.
She said: “I immediately thought, oh my gosh, this is going to be a major issue to address and to deal with, because clearly other countries around are going to suffer from that and we are going to have to react collectively.
“Again, he was extremely honest, open and blunt about it.”