Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, 52, who oversaw Ireland's struggle to avoid national bankruptcy and the collapse of its banks even as he battled cancer, died Friday, his family announced.

He was lauded as a man of commitment and integrity who suffered the ill fortune of becoming finance minister in mid-2008, the moment Ireland's Celtic Tiger boom transformed into disaster.

"Brian had to confront challenges, the scale and gravity of which were unprecedented in the history of the state," said President Mary McAleese. "Despite his illness, he faced up to those challenges with extraordinary but characteristic dignity, courage, and good humor."

Barely four months into his new job, Mr. Lenihan faced the imminent collapse of Ireland's biggest gambler on the runaway property market, Anglo Irish Bank, and the prospect that five other domestic banks could topple like dominoes as a result. He responded with a blanket guarantee of domestic banks, the world's first such move. He said the promise wouldn't cost taxpayers a penny because confidence was all Irish banks needed.

The plan failed spectacularly as subsequent government-ordered investigations unveiled property-based toxic debts in all six banks. Taxpayers were on the hook for repaying tens of billions of dollars. - AP