Lenihan delivered four austerity budgets in his less than three years in the job [AFP]

Ireland's former finance minister Brian Lenihan, who was in office during Ireland's EU/IMF bailout late last year, has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his family said on Friday.

The 52 year old combined one of the toughest jobs in Europe with his treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Colleagues, opponents and journalists noted his ability to retain his good humour, energy and sense of fun throughout the period.

 "Brian Lenihan faced events at a scale and a pace of magnitude that no other Irish minister has ever previously had to contend," Michael Martin, ther leader of Lenihan's Fianna Fail party, said.

"When Ireland was in the eye of the storm, Brian Lenihan never faltered."

Lenihan delivered four austerity budgets in his less than three years in the job.

He bailed out the country's two biggest lenders, nationalised the third and took charge of the two biggest building societies.

Once seen as a contender to lead Fianna Fail, the humiliation of having to apply for an EU-IMF bailout and his poor health put an end to any such plans.

"I have a very vivid memory of going to Brussels on the final Monday and being on my own at the airport and looking at the snow gradually thawing and thinking to myself: this is terrible," Lenihan said in a BBC interview earlier this year.

"No Irish minister has ever had to do this before. Now hell was at the gates."

The former lawyer and university lecturer took over the finance portfolio just as the economy began to unravel in 2008.

A scion of one of Ireland's most famous political dynasties, Lenihan's father was a former deputy prime minister and one-time presidential candidate.

His aunt and brother served in parliament until electoral defeat in February.

Source: Agencies