Lenihan ‘shed tears’ over budgetary cuts, says son
Late minister for finance was deeply affected by financial hardship being suffered around him
As minister for finance, Brian Lenihan presided over three austerity budgets in the space of 14 months
The late minister for finance Brian Lenihan shed tears over the budgetary cuts he was forced to make at the height of the financial crisis, his son Tom revealed today.
In an emotional interview about his father’s untimely death and his own struggle with depression, Tom Lenihan (22) said the former Fianna Fáil deputy leader was deeply affected by the financial hardship being suffered around him.
“Coming up to the budgets, Dad would have been very sympathetic with those that faced the cuts. He would have lost sleep. He would have shed tears over it.”
“It was just so awful…you’re balancing two things that are just impossible moral choices.”
Brian Lenihan served as minister for finance from 2008 to 2011 when the true extent of Ireland’s financial crisis became apparent.
As minister, he presided over three austerity budgets in the space of 14 months, oversaw negotiations with the EU-IMF-ECB troika on Ireland’s financial rescue package, nationalised Anglo Irish Bank and established the National Asset Management Agency or Nama.
He died from pancreatic cancer in June 2011 at the age of 52.
His son, Tom, who is the president of Trinity College Student Union, said his father became a “divisive figure” in Irish politics as a result of the controversies surrounding the financial crisis.
“You can talk about politicians being heartless…but I mean no-one runs for the job to bailout banks and cut social welfare,” he told 2FM’s Ryan Tubridy show.
Mr Lenihan spoke of his father’s battle with cancer, and the physical deterioration it wrought on his body.
He also gave a moving account of his own struggle with depression, revealing how he had had suicidal thoughts on more than one occasion.
He said he had suffered from depression and “low self-esteem” since he was 13 but did not really open up to anyone about it until much later.
“The hardest thing for me in my life, I think, was to tell my Dad I had depression. I didn’t know how he would react and, I suppose, I didn’t want to break his heart.”
Mr Lenihan said his father “broke down in tears” when he told him.
“When he was in office, he said, the biggest crisis was me because he didn’t have the answers for it.”
Mr Lenihan revealed how he later struggled with alcohol and was “drinking a lot” when entered college to study politics and history.
“I would have missed a lot of days of class through…not looking after myself. I would have drank alone a lot…at home, or wherever, I could get alcohol, I suppose.”
Mr Lenihan, who has been taking medication for his depression, said his problems intensified when he was caught cheating in a third-year exam after bringing a note into the examination hall.
“I was not prepared for them. I was drinking a bit. I was pulling all nighters, which I hadn’t really done before. I was sleep-deprived. I wasn’t on my meds. I don’t think I was myself. When it came down to it, I cheated in an exam and I was caught. I had a note in my pocket and I brought it out and I was caught. It was a very stupid thing to do.”
He said he was motivated to speak about his difficulties with depression to raise awareness about the problem and help de-stigmatise the issue.