Lenihan is 'heartened' by support from voters
Majority back minister's decision to keep working despite his illness
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told the Sunday Independent yesterday that he was "greatly heartened" by opinion-poll findings that 70 per cent of people believe he is right to stay in office despite his illness.
"I have a job to do and I feel that I have the will and energy to do it to the standard that the country needs," he said.
"The positivity shown towards me in the poll is greatly encouraging and gives me increased motivation to do the job that I've been called upon to do."
An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll published last week found that 70 per cent said he was "right to stay in the job"; 23 per cent said he was "not right to stay in the job" and 7 per cent didn't know.
In the same poll, 55 per cent said that the Government should put more emphasis on cutting public spending, as opposed to 28 per cent who felt that taxes should be increased, with 17 per cent don't-knows.
Somewhat contradictorily, 65 per cent said the Budget, which cut public spending by €4bn, was "broadly unfair"; 32 per cent said it was "broadly fair", with 3 per cent don't-knows.
"A poll is a snapshot and I am encouraged that such a high proportion of the public sees spending cuts as important and it is understandable that nearly two-thirds feel the Budget was broadly unfair but, on the other hand, 32 per cent felt it was fair which, at this point in time, is ahead of the proportion who support the Government," he said.
Commenting on US president Barack Obama's tough approach to the banks in the US, Mr Lenihan said that the problem in this country was that our banks had lent too much to construction and building.
He welcomed the inquiry into the banks, the preliminary stages of which will take place while we are fixing the banking system, he said, and this would happen in the first half of the year.
It was important that one process did not interfere with the other, and he was confident that this was how it would happen.
In the poll, when asked if they accepted Mr Lenihan's view that the worst of the crisis is over, 61 per cent of voters said the worst was yet to come, while 31 per cent believed the worst was over and 8 per cent had no opinion.
"Again, it's down to how you interpret a poll at a moment in time," said Mr Lenihan. "Our challenge now is to restore competitiveness and to enhance our exports, which will pave the way for strong economic growth.
"That is my entire focus and I am glad that such a high proportion at a very difficult time believe we are on the right track.
"People understand that we have to make savings and we have to make spending cuts. That is difficult for them, but it is the reality," he added.