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He endured ‘day after awful day’ of chemo

FIANNA Fail backbenchers still want Brian Lenihan to launch a bid for the party’s leadership, despite his cancer.

It comes as the Finance Minister refused to rule out replacing Brian Cowen.

In a clear sign that he has leadership ambitions, Mr Lenihan refused to shut the door on the issue.

His aunt, TD Mary O’Rourke, also told of her nephew’s “day after awful day” of agonising chemotherapy during his holidays.

A number of backbenchers want the Dublin TD to lead FF into the next election, fearing they will be wiped out under Mr Cowen. When questioned on the possibility of a move to become party leader, Mr Lenihan replied: “Some other Taoisigh have made the point… everyone wants to be party leader at some stage. But there's no vacancy at present. That's the position.”

A number of Fianna Fail TDs have told the Herald that they would like to see Mr Lenihan leading the party before the next election.

That’s despite the fact that the Minister told how he is still battling cancer and his treatment has not eradicated cancerous cells.

Unpopular

Although there is no set plan, some TDs have suggested that Mr Lenihan should step up around six months before the next election in order to prevent a polling day bloodbath.

Even though he’s the Minister introducing massive cutbacks and stealth taxes, Mr Lenihan has managed to maintain a level of popularity while Taoiseach Brian Cowen is the country's most unpopular politician.

But big questions remain about Minister Lenihan's health.

Although he told RTE's News at One that his energy levels have risen, he revealed: “It hasn't gone away. It's there.

“It is a danger but it's not an immediate or clear or present danger to me.”

Mary O'Rourke insisted last night that the Finance Minister is not considering the leadership at the moment. “He just said quite clearly there is no vacancy. He repeated it.

“He was saying he has two jobs in hand.

“One is his own health, and the second one is the health of the nation,” the Longford/Westmeath TD said. As he left for Brussels to negotiate the future of Anglo with his European Union colleagues, Mr Lenihan also said that he had never canvassed support from Fianna Fail backbenchers.

He claimed that he and Taoiseach Brian Cowen were working “very, very closely” on bringing Ireland through the banking crisis.

“He was chosen by the Fianna Fail parliamentary party as the leader and nobody has suggested to me that that should be changed,” said Mr Lenihan.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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