'Leave the kid gloves at home during Dail debates'
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has given the opposition the all-clear to engage in "robust criticism" of his policies despite his cancer diagnosis.
He phoned the main opposition spokespersons -- Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton and Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton -- the night before his public statement.
Mr Lenihan said he told Mr Bruton he didn't want him to be "pulling his punches" in criticism of the Government because of his health condition.
"I expect him to continue the tradition of robust criticism which the opposition have engaged in since the onset of the crisis," he said.
Mr Lenihan left a phone message for Ms Burton, his colleague in the Dublin West constituency, who yesterday released a statement to wish him a full and early recovery.
"Brian Lenihan enjoys personal respect and admiration on all sides of the Dail and in his battle against this serious illness he will have the support of every member of the House," she said.
Mr Lenihan has promised he will appear in the Dail for ministers' question time, where he will be quizzed by both Ms Burton and Mr Bruton.
Mr Bruton also released a statement yesterday to wish Mr Lenihan a full and speedy recovery.
He praised his "frank and detailed statement" about his illness and his determination to concentrate his energies on the Department of Finance.
But he showed he had taken Mr Lenihan's message about engaging in "robust criticism" to heart by releasing a second statement seven minutes later.
In it, Mr Bruton criticised Mr Lenihan's insistence that there could be no inquiry into the near-collapse of the banking system until the NAMA process had been completed.
He also said it was mischievous for Mr Lenihan to characterise such an inquiry as a "barrister-fattening exercise" (in the form of a tribunal) or a "political circus" (in the form of an Oireachtas inquiry).
Mr Lenihan also received backing yesterday from Green Party leader John Gormley.
"(The Green Party was) saddened by news of his illness but heartened by Brian's response ... and we will give him every support in the coming months," a spokesman for Mr Gormley said.