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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 4, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    Brian Lenihan interview

    Harry McGee

    Anyone who listened to Brian Lenihan’s interview will be struck by his optimism and lack of self-pity in the face of such a grave and life-threatening condition. You can listen to Sean O’Rourke’s (adroitly handled) interview with him on RTE’s News at One here.

    My own observations:

    1. While he has not confirmed pancreatic cancer, he has confirmed a malignant tumour at the mouth of the pancreas. It is also close to a vital blood vessel. Therefore, chemotherapy and radio therapy will be the first options for treatment, presumably followed by surgery, if deemed necessary.  It’s a serious condition that requires radical treatment. There is no doubt about that.

    2. He said that he will defeat it or it will defeat him. They were the key words in the interview. They were telling of his positive and upbeat disposition. That phrase will feature in most of the headlines tomorrow.

    3. He said he doesn’t intend to comment further on his condition, nor give daily or weekly updates. If there is a change, he will make it known. Lenihan also said that he would discontinue if his condition or treatment meant that he was unable to continue. The media will continue to take a very close and continuing (ie daily) interest in his condition. This will be a big test of striking the balance between the public duty to report and his rights to privacy.

    4. Steve Jobs, the charismatic founder of Apple, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and had a successful transplant operation (liver transplant) last year. Nobody is under any illusion about how serious the conditon is though. The Minister did say that his pancreas continues to function, which suggests that the tumour may not have spread to this vital organ. And that is a hopeful sign.

    5. He was critical of TV3, albeit mild rather than severe. In today’s interview he accepted that the medical condition of the Minister for Finance was of public interest. However, he said that he let it be known he would make a statement and he always intended to make a statement on January 4, to allow him time to inform his wider family, and his friends. The decision of TV3 to jump the gun and break the story on St Stephen’s Day will now come in for renewed condemnation.

    6. The reaction to the interview has been overwhelming and overwhelmingly positive. His decision to continue in his role, notwithstanding the huge personal battle he is facing, is nothing short of bravery. I think everybody, friend or foe, wishes him well in the weeks, months and years ahead.

    • Gemma says:

      I wish Brian Lenihan every success in his battle with cancer. He has shown great courage and lack of self pity in the face of such a shocking diagnosis. I sincerely hope he and his family will not be dogged by the media as he undergoes his treatments.

    • M Collins says:

      Though far from a FF supporter, I have a great respect for Brian Lenihan, and I’m upset at his misfortune. It won’t be easy for him to keep up the work rate that he has adhered to in the past year. For the sake of the country, I hope that he cuts back on constituency work rather than Ministerial work, to the extent that such re-balancing is necessary.

    • Tom Cosgrave says:

      I want to wish BL the best of luck.

      I have seen cancer up close the last couple of years and he is in for a horrible time.

      Cancer requires a 110% battle to keep psychologically and physically healthy. I think, in reality, that if he wants to defeat it, he will have to step away completely from his duties.

    • barbera O'Shokenzy says:

      Brian Lenihan’s interview was above and beyond the call of duty at this difficult time. Adroitly handled, as you say Harry, by Sean O’Rourke but nevertheless gruelling. I pray that the media will now leave him to do his job and most importantly to recover. Brian Lenihan is clearly an erudite politician and a person of high integrity. We need him.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Who doesn’t wish him well? However, he has full VHI or BUPA paid for by the taxpayer and of course he will get the best treatment at the Mater Private and God forbid if he needs a transplant the golden circle will rally round again – it’s the least they can do.

      I do however feel huge sympathy for the people with cancer who have to battle the HSE for their care and treatment while also trying to keep a job or pay bills.

      This doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a legitimate opinion to question how suitable he is to be Minister for Finance – with or without his medical condition. People say he has integrity etc but on what basis do they claim this? He was part of the FF/PD governments which created the mess we are now in and it is a legitimate question to doubt everything he has done since he was appointed because nothing he has done has helped anyone except the very people who profited from the boom. His actions as Minister haven’t prevented a single business going bust or family losing a home.

      Why is he allowed get away with not explaining why banks are still repossessing homes or why no money is going to create a social housing market or to create a export product base etc?

    • Harry says:

      Well Desmond, he isn’t being allowed get away with it. The stuff he said today about assistant secretary salaries doesn’t hold water. He himself has said he hopes the criticism from the opposition remains as robust as possible. I’ve read some of your intriguing comments on Deaglan’s last blog. I swear to God, Desmond, there wasn’t a third politcal correspondent on the grassy knoll!

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Well given how we have seen a fraction of what goes on in secret in Ireland. Be it politics, the church or business and the fact that the structures that protected the secrey are as much in place as ever – I’ll stick to believing the cynics and the conspiracy theories!

      Wasn’t there a political correspondent on every grassy knoll – but they all decided to keep it to themselves rather than rock the boat. Isn’t that how people become political correspondents in the first place … :)

    • Harry says:

      I’m not going to get involved in a big drawn-out argument over this. The answer is No.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      How exactly are the media going to hold Lenihan to account. Or quantify what impact, if any, his health has on his decisions and whether those decisions are bad, as they will be, due to his judgement being impaired or simply due to being a continuation of his record of making bad decisions.

      Also, how will the political correspondents deal with the Fianna Fáil attack dogs (like O’Dea and Ahern) who’ll turn any legitimate comment on bad financial decisions by the government into the media attacking a man with cancer trying his best?

      Given how badly the media failed since ’97 to hold the government to account, is it reasonable to hope it will start doing so in 2010 to make up for past mistakes? Or will it be more of the same, hiding behind a failure to tackle government politicians full on while at the same time holding FG politicians to a standard you don’t hold the government to. Then expecting FG, which isn’t in power yet, to account for its policies to a degree that you don’t apply to the actual government that is in power and has far more resources than FG?

      Certainly FG have to set out its stall but the lack of detail from FG doesn’t mean FF should get a free ride. This brings me back to previous points about how can it be that people who share lunch and pints in Leinster House with the very people they are then meant to report on can be objective about those people and their political failings?

      Where is the distance between the media and politicans to allow the media credibilty to ask the tough questions?

    • Betterworld Now says:


      If BL can get around the Taoiseach’s legendary tacit ideological support for the blockade of Cuba, there is a Cuban vaccine which is effective in controlling the spread of pancreatic cancers.

      “The [Cuban] SAI-EGF vaccine is designed to attack epidermal growth factor receptor, one of the receptors related to the regulation of cell growth. Research has shown that the EGF signaling pathway is linked to cancer cell growth in the development of many solid tumor cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers. ” (Source: http://www.medicc.org/publications/medicc_review/1004/pages/headlines_in_cuban_health3.html )

      The Cuban anti-cancer vaccine is currently being prepared for FDA approval by a US based company called Cancervax Inc via its Irish subsidiary, Tarcanta Ltd., based at 30 Herbert Street, Dublin 2.

      Details of the Cuban licensing agreement can be found here: http://consusgroup.com/previews/1255770/

      Cuba currently earns more from the global licensing of its biotechnology than it does from the export of sugar or from tourism. It’s potential for export lead growth is unlimited and in its infancy.

      In an ironic twist of fate, Cuba’s renowned biotech expertise has its origins in the need to protect the Cuban people (and Cuban agriculture) from successive bio-warfare attacks in the 1960s, 70s and 80s which they have evidence to suggest originated in US bioweapons labs. The USA is still the world’s largest producer and stock-piler of bio-WMDs.

    • An Fear Bolg says:

      Snide, cheap shots (like Desmond’s) about taxpayer-funded VHI and golden circles are the type of political debate we get in Ireland. It’s time to change that.

    • Filipo says:

      President R Mugabe is coming to Ireland to meet Mr Lenihan, he is very annoyed with himself, he said it took him 30 years to destroy his Country, FF have done it in 13. Always lessons to be learned, especially by the Irish people, was this man part of a Govt that has systematically destroyed the health service over the last 13 years, does he not have top accept his responsibilities in this matter, how many people have died in this State before their time because of decisions that this man along with others, including those that have voted for them. My heart is broken for all those families, it cries for an end to this extreme right wing Govt, maybe his duty is to resign from Govt along with the rest of his party, then give us a choice to get a Govt that can have the faith of the majority not just the Irish Indo.I wish al persons in ill health a speedy recover, public or private.

    • Laura says:

      @Desmond, your comments re Golden circle paying for a transplant…… what do you suppose they will do? Buy him a sacrificial donor to provide a liver? The assertion that a golden circle would somehow “fix” his cancer for him is absurd. Yes, he has VHI/BUPA, many of us do. How many of us with VHI/BUPA have jumped a public patient on a queue for treatment for something? If you have a problem with the health service, you are targeting the wrong minister

    • Margo Mulvey says:

      Brian Lenihan has done an heroic job with great integrity. He is a worthy minister and leader for all who are proud to be Irish even in these difficult and often harsh times. I wish him and his family continued courage in the weeks and months ahead. God bless, Margo

    • robespierre says:

      Laura – I believe it is a reference to the liver transplant Brian Lenihan Senior back in the 1980′s.

      I can’t remember the precise details but let’s just say that his father got a liver transplant but the funds raised did not all go to his treatment. [Harry adds: It emerged in the course of the Moriarty Tribunal that some of the funds received by Charles Haughey on behalf of Brian Lenihan senior were not passed on from Haughey to the special fund to finance the transplant]

      Desmond Fitzgerald does make some good points however. Looking at Kevin Myers column today in the Irish Independent, one wonders whether it is appropriate that PolCorr’s pull on the green jersey. Either report the news, factually or be a columnist and buddy up to them.

    • It won’t be easy for him to keep up the work rate that he has adhered to in the past year. For the sake of the country, I hope that he cuts back on constituency work rather than Ministerial work, to the extent that such re-balancing is necessary. As a country we have in the past suffered badly as a result of our crazy political and electoral arrangements which require serving Ministers to spend inordinate amounts of time “minding” their constituency.

      A stark example of this is available on the web: details of Brian Lenihan’s own Ministerial diary for September 2008 to March 2009, a period of extreme difficulty in the affairs of the country and a time when you would imagine that, of all people, Mr Lenihan (as Minister for Finance) would be avoiding non-urgent constituency commitments. But it’s clear from browsing through his diary that he was still devoting a very large amount of time to constituency clinics, and to local dinners and other functions. This is not a way to run a country, or even a Government department.

      However, from what Mr Lenihan said yesterday, the signs are promising. He was asked about how his illness might affect his long-term political future, and he was quoted as replying: “I’m very focused on the long term in the department and the economy and I’m thinking that way, but ambitions somewhat fade when you’re in a position like this and you focus on survival yourself and doing your job right.”

      It’s sad that it takes an illness like this to force a Minister to do what we really need them to do all of the time: devote 100% of their energies to the proper management of the country, and none to the job of securing their Dáil seat for the next election.


    • Hugh says:

      BL’s comments have left those 70 people who went whingeing to the BAI with complaints looking very silly. It WAS in the public interest.

      And to be frank, let’s put all this ‘outpouring of public sympathy’ nonsense into perspective – most people couldn’t care less. And, if you want a social media perspective on this ‘gush of emotion’ then explain how the Facebook sympathy group has only a fraction of the members of the one pointing out the less attractive aspects of Gerry Ryan’s personality (before it was shut down).

      If you’re upset about an announcement on Saint Stephen’s Day, then perhaps you should talk to Atheist Ireland about contriving a blasphemy case.

      Such utter cant.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      I’m sorry I wish Lenihan well, I really do but I find it hard to stomach the ‘how brave is he’ guff. I also had to read some rubbish about how brave his father was to carry on with cancer – his father had a liver transplant paid for by the cronies and golden circle of his day who bankrolled his election campaigns and those of his party.

      Brian Lenihan Snr wasn’t brave. Brave were the men and women who coped in the Irish health service in the 80s – which was beggared thanks to the corruption of people like CJH who was backed to the hilt in all he did by his ‘best’ friend Brian Lenihan Snr.

      Now the love fest is over can we expect jounralists to give the same attention to the other few hundred cancer patients who do not have the taxpayer paying for staff and offices so they can keep their Dáil seat, have a state car to bring them to the Mater Private and collect them again, who don’t have their VHI/BUPA paid for by the taxpayer but who will now have to find another 8% for their VHI – how is it possible that the cost of the VHI is going up in a recession?

      Of course Lenihan is upbeat – the taxpayer is dealing with all the other worries that other cancer patients have to fight for themselves.

      Where is the anger on behalf of elderly parents worried about paying to heat their house or paying VHI as they are too scared to depend on the health service and be left on a trolley for days.

      Will jounralists examine Brian Lenihan’s role in constantly supporting a government as a backbancher and then minister as it ran public services into the ground.

      The taxpayer will pay handsomely to cushion Brian Lenihan from the realities of what most Irish people have to face when they confront a serious medical condition. Spare them your compassion as Brian Lenihan doesn’t need it.

      Elaine Byrne was spot on again today – where is the anger that elderly parents are worrying about paying for heating or paying for increasing VHI as they don’t want to risk being dependent on the health service or worrying what’ll happen if they need full time care and support or need help with transport etc.

      Do Irish people have sense of outrage at political corruption and those who either take part in it or look the other way – which is worse?

    • Warrenpoint Gal says:

      Brian Lenihan is to be congratulated on the dignified way he disclosed to the nation that he is seriously ill. He is a great leader and one whom the country loves whether he has put the screw on wages or not. wish him the best of luck and wish that by the end of the Summer he will be fighting fit again.

    • Tony Galway says:

      Firstly, May I wish Mr. Lenihan well.

      As someone who has a family member living with inoperable cancer, I cannot imagine why he would wish to live out in public the personal nightmare he and his family are now going through.

      Chemotherapy can be as awful as it can be effective. Its side-effects, particularly nausea can be almost intolerable.

      Part of me feels that it would be better from him to take to take time off from his stressful work to combat his illness.

    • Red Biddy says:

      Bravo Harry! re your response @ 8 above to ‘cruel and unusual’ comments posted here and colleagues blog…

    • Ger says:

      From a human perspective, the pressures a Minister of Finance must come under from these difficult economic times cannot be conducive to a recovery from his illness and whether Mr Lenihan recognises this or not, whether he wants to continue to work or not, the decision should not be his. This is where his boss comes in and also his political colleagues.

      We can sympathise with Mr Lenihan wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery and hopefully a resumption of work, but we need to take a detached unemotional view of the question of whether he should continue to work as Minister for Finance on or not.

      We have a Minister for Health who is an independent TD because no one in FF has the backbone or perhaps talent to do the job. We do not need a Minister for Finance who is seriously ill and whose judgement may be affected bythe illness simply because Brian Cowen and his senior colleagues do not have the backbone to insist Mr Lenihan take the time to recover.
      As for TV3, breaking news is what news organisations do. If it were President Obama, the question of criticising a media outlet for breaking the story would not arise.

    • kynos says:

      “Harry adds: It emerged in the course of the Moriarty Tribunal that some of the funds received by Charles Haughey on behalf of Brian Lenihan senior were not passed on from Haughey to the special fund to finance the transplant” – as I recall of the thousands raised in donations ostensibly for Lenihan’s liver treatment almost all of it was purloined by that vicious crook Charles J Haughey who I believe dropped round about 200 quid in cash to Lenihan the day he was due to fly out for his surgery, which in fact was largely funded by the VHI. Charlie Haughey was a vicious sociopath who was a traitor to his country, his party and his friends. May he lie still. And I’m sure whereever he is he is indeed Lying, still. It’ll take 10,000 rebirths as a cockroach for that creature to ever learn a lesson imo. “Don’t speak ill of the dead” indeed. Perhaps there’s an argument for not speaking ill of them for the 40 or so days they’re in the Bardo of Becoming but after that it’s open season lads and few in recent Irish history deserve our contumely more than the indicted (but sadly, thanks to that fool Harney, not convicted) criminal thief traitor and glutton Charles Haughey. Yep. We should not judge. But we are human, so we do.

    • Kynos says:

      And no having gotten that off my chest doesn’t make me feel better. Someone has to keep saying these things tho’. The spin and bluster and lies will otherwise ensure such an obnulification of the truth of the matter that they’ll have the bugger canonised in 20 years or less and nothing, but nothing, will ever change. Nothing will change anyway. CJH reflected us all too well.

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