Saturday 27 December 2014

Brian Lenihan's son faces impeachment in TCD

But Trinity Students' Union president insists he won't resign and is 'not going anywhere'

Published 06/10/2013 | 05:00

BATTLES: Tom Lenihan, right, who battled depression, pictured with his late father, former Finance Minister Brian

TOM Lenihan, son of the late finance minister Brian, is facing impeachment as Students' Union President in Trinity College Dublin after he admitted cheating in his exams.

But Mr Lenihan, who won widespread praise last month for his openness about his battle with depression, has insisted he will not resign, telling the Sunday Independent: "I am going nowhere."

Political rivals have accused Mr Lenihan of "damaging the reputation of the Students' Union" by his actions.

A campaign was launched during the summer, which included a Facebook page "Impeach Tom Lenihan", and has reignited since the start of term.

The fresh impetus has come in light of recent interviews in the national media by Mr Lenihan about his depression and how he came to cheat in one of his summer exams.

In those interviews, Mr Lenihan discussed how he battled with depression during the period while his father was finance minister and fighting cancer.

However, political rivals in Trinity say it is wrong that someone "who has cheated in an exam should represent students as president of their union", and have called on Mr Lenihan to resign.

Eoin Silke, a former gay rights officer with the Students' Union, who is organising the campaign, said: "In the simplest terms, I don't believe that someone who has cheated in an exam should represent students as president of their union. I believe the best thing for Tom Lenihan to have done was resign. Since he's decided not to, I'm pursuing my only other democratic option: impeachment."

Under the union's rules, 500 signatures are required for the impeachment; a referendum would be expected to take place at the beginning of the next academic year.

Mr Silke admitted he has been accused of "lacking in sympathy" in his drive to seek Mr Lenihan's impeachment. But he insisted Mr Lenihan's depression was not an excuse for his actions.

He said: "Having suffered from depression myself, I sympathise fully with Tom's mental health issues. I wish him all the best in what I know can be a long and difficult recovery. His personal difficulties provide a context for his cheating. I am sure many who cheat do so because of similar personal difficulties, and they must be treated with understanding. But, as Tom himself recognises, they do not excuse his actions."

Mr Silke, who is a member of the Labour Party, has also denied that there is any "personal agenda against Tom", on the basis of his political connections or his father. "This is not true either," he added. The Facebook page seeking Mr Lenihan's impeachment includes a mission statement as to why Mr Lenihan's removal is being sought.

It states: "How can Tom speak with authority on behalf of a student accused of cheating? How can he effectively represent students at all when there are significant doubts that he enjoys the support that elected him? When Googling your name returns 'TCD student leader admits cheating', how can you function effectively in that role?"

Mr Lenihan said he was aware of the campaign to oust him, but as of yet no motion had been passed by the Student Council. Mr Lenihan said he does not intend to accede to calls for him to go: "No, I am not going anywhere."

Mr Lenihan recently told the college newspaper, Trinity News, that he didn't think his position was compromised in the eyes of the students, saying: "I just haven't had that exposure, no one's ever said it to me. In terms of stature with college I was worried about it because if I wasn't going to be taken seriously on a college level then I shouldn't be in the job."

Last month, Mr Lenihan opened up about how since age 13 he had suffered from depression, going as far as to say he was at times suicidal.

"I was drinking a lot and that followed me through college," he said. "I would have missed a lot of days. I would have drank alone a lot. Just wherever I could get alcohol."

His problems culminated when he was caught cheating in a third-year exam.

"When I sat my exams I was not prepared for them. I was drinking a bit. I was pulling all-nighters. I wasn't on my meds," he said.

He found it particularly difficult when his father was battling cancer.

But he doesn't believe his dad should have given up his job.

"I would have felt guilty if he resigned because of me. I was suicidal at the time... I wanted to pay as less attention as I could to my own demons and be there for my dad."

Sunday Independent

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