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Lenihan - I'm not quitting

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan today confirmed that he will remain in Cabinet while he battles cancer.

The Minister moved to reassure the public that he will remain in the key role with his first public comments on his illness.

Mr Lenihan (50) is determined to tackle the country's economic woes for the foreseeable future.

Statement

A statement was being finalised by his officials early today and was due to be released this afternoon.

It was drawn up after the Minister consulted with Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

His health problems became a matter of intense discussion after TV3 announced it on St Stephen's day, sparking scores of complaints to the broadcasting authority.

While Mr Lenihan will stay on as Finance Minister, it's understood he plans to reduce his hectic schedule of public appearances in favour of working behind the scenes.

His decision has the full backing of the Taoiseach, who is said to be happy with the arrangement.

"Mr Lenihan wants to continue with the tough job he has started. Certainly he'll need help but already he has received huge support from those around him," a source said.

He was admitted to the Mater Hospital on December 16 complaining of discomfort that was initially linked to a suspected hernia problem.

Doctors then discovered that he was suffering from a more serious condition.

News of his diagnosis was made public on St Stephen's Day when TV3 broadcast a report claiming he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

The timing and manner of that report has been the focus of sustained attack, particularly in political circles.

Social Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin has already said that she and her colleagues were annoyed by the way the personal health details were made public.

Wexford TD Sean Connick added: "We were all just appaled at the way the story broke and the way it was handled in particular.

Decency

"Brian should have been given the decency and the respect to deal with this issue on a personal basis."

More than 70 complaints about TV3 have been made to the Broadcasting Authority, who must now consider what, if any action is appropriate.

The station has defended their actions, with director of news Andrew Hanlon saying the station held the story for two days so that the Minister could inform his family.

Mr Lenihan is expected to talk to RTE News this evening rather than TV3, as well as releasing an official statement to all media outlets.

Speaking over the weekend, the Minister said he is looking forward to a "full and vigorous year ahead".

Tomorrow is the first big day of the New Year for the Department of Finance with the publication of the official tax figures for the past 12 months.

Mr Lenihan is not expected to take any public role in that announcement which will be made by officials from his office.

The figures will show that tax revenue has plummeted to it lowest level since 2003.

The Government took in €32.5bn in taxes in 2009 -- a drop of 20pc on the previous year and down 30pc from 2007.

Government spending has been in the region of €56m.

However, the tax take is broadly in line with what was predicted and this will offer considerable hope to the market investors as it suggests a period of stability entering 2010.

The Minister is said to be hugely heartened by the support and well-wishes he has received from Fianna Fail colleagues, as well members of the public.

A Facebook website set up to put "politics aside" and "wish Brian Lenihan well" has close to 5,000 subscribers.

Over 620 messages have been left from internet users in 15 different countries.

Mr Lenihan's son Tom confirmed that his father had viewed the page and was grateful for the support.

The Minister is married to Circuit Court judge Patricia Ryan and also has a teenager daughter.

hnews@herald.ie


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