Lenihan right to carry on job, says Taoiseach
THE Taoiseach has insisted that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is "well capable" of continuing in his role while he is receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Brian Cowen said Mr Lenihan, who is beginning a course of chemotherapy, had the "fullest confidence and support" of his ministerial colleagues.
"He will continue discharging his duties, based on his determination and our collective view that it is the right thing to do for the country and he is in a position to do that," said Mr Cowen.
"For so long as he wishes to do that, that will be the case. He has all our support and all our hopes are with him."
Asked if someone should be in a position to advise Mr Lenihan in future on whether it was wise to continue to work while receiving treatment, Mr Cowen said: "We discussed this matter. He is capable, well capable, of continuing to do his job.
"That is the position. That will continue to be the position," Mr Cowen told RTE's "This Week" programme.
"In no way will it interfere with the constitutional duties he has as Minister for Finance. I have every faith and confidence in his judgments."
The Taoiseach added that he was "very proud" of his decision to appoint Mr Lenihan as Finance Minister when he became leader of Fianna Fail.
"I think he has shown tremendous capacity and huge determination to work as a member of the Government to address the significant challenges this country has faced in recent times," he said.
The Taoiseach predicted that the economy would grow in the second half of this year but he also warned that more cuts would be needed to stabilise the country's finances.
"There's still a long way to go, but I think 2010 and 2011 are about rebuilding the economy. We've come through a very difficult period. . . now Ireland has to reposition itself."
Mr Cowen said the Government had to take decisions that would not be contemplated in normal circumstances. But such decisions had been necessary and there was a "growing understanding" of this.
While growth would return, said Mr Cowen, there remained a gap between public expenditure and tax receipts.
"That means further cuts are provided for next year and in the following year," he added.
Yesterday's fulsome support for Mr Lenihan followed an opinion poll at the weekend which showed that 70pc believed it was right that he should stay in office.
In an interview with the 'Sunday Independent', Mr Lenihan said he was "greatly heartened" by the poll results.
"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 I've been called upon to do."