Lenihan should resign because of ill-health, says FG senator
A FINE GAEL senator who objected to Brian Lenihan speaking at a commemoration for Michael Collins now says the Finance Minister should resign from government for health reasons.
Senator Liam Twomey, who is also a medical practitioner, said yesterday: "If I was his doctor, I would recommend that he step aside from his job."
There was no response from any of the political parties but senior members of Fine Gael were deeply embarrassed and neither Mr Lenihan nor Fianna Fail would comment.
Senator Twomey, who made similar comments in letters to the national newspapers, hardened his criticism of Mr Lenihan yesterday.
"I would say the same if I was advising any top business executive, and Brian Lenihan is essentially managing a €50bn enterprise (the economy of the Republic of Ireland)," said Senator Twomey.
"People are avoiding the issue (of Mr Lenihan's health), but I think there is nothing wrong on my commenting on his public role." He added: "My medical opinion is like a legal opinion, you can take it or leave it."
Senator Twomey is unhappy that Mr Lenihan was asked to give the oration at the commemoration of Michael Collins at Beal na mBlath in 10 days' time.
"This is only a personal viewpoint," said Senator Twomey, "but he (Mr Lenihan) was chosen to give the oration because he is working through his illness."
Dr Twomey said that any patient suffering from a serious illness, like Mr Lenihan, should follow a strict health regime.
"You need to minimise stress, make sure you're eating properly and getting sufficient sleep," said Dr Twomey.
It was revealed over the Christmas holidays that Mr Lenihan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has continued to work while receiving treatment.
The Finance Minister is one of the few politicians who is respected across party political lines and has admirers in the Labour Party and Fine Gael.
Dr Twomey was elected to the Dail as an independent TD for Wexford in 2002 and joined Fine Gael and was appointed its health spokesman in 2004.
After he lost his Dail seat in 2007, Dr Twomey (43) was elected to the Senate.
Senator Twomey raised his original objections to Mr Lenihan addressing the Michael Collins commemoration in letters to national newspapers.
The senator said he admired the courage shown by Mr Lenihan in dealing with his illness, but he added that as a doctor, he was not sure it was appropriate for Mr Lenihan to continue working.
But in his interview with the Irish Independent yesterday, Senator Twomey's criticisms of Mr Lenihan went much further.
"I feel very strongly -- it's just not appropriate for a Fianna Fail minister to give the oration where he (Michael Collins) was shot, especially when you know what he stood for," said Senator Twomey.
"Brian Lenihan cannot be absolved because he was Minister for Children in Bertie Ahern's government -- he was sitting at the cabinet table.
He added: "Michael Collins stood for transparency, accountability, responsibility and prudence about spending public money."
Privately some Fine Gaelers and Fianna Failers have questioned Senator Twomey's devotion to Michael Collins and the Fine Gael cause. "He was elected as an independent and then joined Fine Gael and lost the seat," said one colleague last night. "I think he might be trying to be more Fine Gael than the Fine Gaelers."
Senator Twomey pointed out that he was raised in west Cork, near Clonakilty just a few miles from where Michael Collins was born.
The invitation to Fianna Fail minister Brian Lenihan follows other non-Fine Gaelers like former president Mary Robinson and film producer David Puttnam who both delivered the oration at Beal na mBlath.