This post specifically addresses my reflections of Brian Lenihan the politician. It does not reflect entirely on Brian Lenihan the human being. Anyone with an once of respect and dignity shall show such respect and dignity to someone who has unfailingly shown courage, warmth, compassion and humanity. As a person, he is someone I aspire to, because unlike me, he had grasped the opportunities available to him. Whatever his role in life he applied vigour, intelligence and hard work. As a father and a husband, I would imagine he was amongst the best.
If, like most of the media and politicians you feel that Brian Lenihan was a great statesman and a fine politician. This is not the post for you. You have been warned.
The Age of Innocence
Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Growing up under these circumstances, Brian Jr must have looked up to his father like none other. His father of course had a chequered history with the political party he belonged to. Apparently unable to choose between the knave and the fool (Haughey and Colley) he later amended the record of revisionism to indicate that he had indeed supported Haughey. No matter, stints as Minister for Justice, Minister for Education, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Transport were a more than adequate reward for a lifetime of mediocrity. None could say that Lenihan Sr. wasn't a charismatic and able Irish politician, but none would say he was an able statesman.
In 1990, Lenihan Sr made the transition to FF presidential candidate, a shoe-in if ever there was one. FF after all, had never lost a presidential election, and Lenihan was a popular choice. Unfortunately for him, three events were going to conspire against him. Firstly, in a needless effort of revisionism, Lenihan insisted that he had not pressurised President Hillery into refusing the dissolution of the Dáil in 1982, widely accepted by all as being a power play on behalf of Charlie Haughey. Unfortunately for him, a tape quickly surfaced featuring an interview with Lenihan admitting to phoning President Hillery for precisely this reason. Forced to admit he had lied - although the term used was 'on mature reflection' he then appeared on TV attempting to defuse the situation.
Things were to get worse. The PD's who were in government at the time wanted Lenihan's head on a stick or they would pull out of government. Haughey courageously drafted a resignation letter which Lenihan refused to sign on point of principal - that he was only doing what he was told. So Haughey sacked him through the presidential office. Lastly, Padraig Flynn's decision to attack the Labour candidate, Mary Robinson, completely backfired on the campaign and the consequences as we all know, led to a seismic change in Irish politics, for the better.
Brian Lenihan Jr was 31 years of age at this point. What do you think went through his mind? What do you think he thought of Charlie Haughey, his father's 'friend of 30 years'. What do you think he thought of Bertie Ahern his father's campaign manager? What do you think he thought of Padraig Flynn, the best example of everything FF stood for in milking the gravy train?
Let's park that for a minute, we'll move onto the next age.....
The Age of Advancement
I never met anyone who didn't have a very smart child. What happens to these children, you wonder, when they reach adulthood?
......hang on, hold up there! Joins his brother? Wasn't he a well known and well regarded barrister? Why on earth would he want to contest a by-election after his fathers death, especially when no-one thought he would win it? One can only assume that the political blood that courses through the veins of the Lenihans was strongest in the elder sibling, particularly when he won the election, based as it was more on his charisma, likeability and good-humour, as it was on a sympathy vote.
Re-elected in 1997, great things were predicted for Brian Jr, was he not one of the smartest kids on the block? Was he not stuffed with brains? Was he not exceptionally well educated and well spoken? Was he not fluent in French? Could he not quote literature, poetry and history by memory alone? Was he not a barrister, trained to understand any situation quickly, to arrive at suitable stratagems in the shortest time frame, and thence to use his oratory and rhetoric powers to convince all those around him of his merits?
Sadly for Brian, he met his antithesis in Bertie Ahern. Bertie wanted to be educated in UCD or the LSE, or so he and others would have us believe, but had to settle for being a DIT accounts clerk. Bertie could speak Dublinese. Bertie mangled every maxim and proverb in existence. Bertie couldn't quote anything remotely relevant if it wasn't a sporting event involving Dublin or Manchester United. Bertie was DNS. But, and crucially, Bertie had two things Brian didn't have, raw cunning and political experience.
So for six years Brian Lenihan Jr cooled his heels while Bertie ignored him. For the next 5 years after that Bertie made him Minister for Children, a sort of halfway house for the politically useless. This way, he could be part of the cabinet but not be required to use his ability, skills and influence to bear on his colleagues.
Presumably after 11 years of loyal service to FF, keeping his oh-so-clever mouth shut, Ahern finally decided that Lenihan could now be trusted with a proper job, so in 2007 he was made Minister for Justice, the post his father once held, and the one most appropriate to his experience and skillsets.
One has to wonder what Lenihan actually thought of this. Hadn't he cut off his career in its prime to take up the reins of his father's political career? Was he not 100 times more capable than anyone else in the cabinet? How on earth could anyone justify that someone with his God-given talents would be left out of any significant part in government for 11 years, just because some trumped up little political rat had a complex about him? Things were to change quickly though, because Bertie's past had finally caught up with him.
The Age of Delusion
He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy
Cowen gave Lenihan the role as MoF because of its seniority, not because he was suited for the role. Not that he had any worries of course, after all, he, a mere solicitor, has sleepwalked his way through MoF over the last few years, no doubt an actual real live barrister would be an absolute genius.
Unfortunately for Brian & Brian the runaway train of global fiscal correction was heading down the tracks and Ireland Inc. was the car stuck at the level crossing. So. Standing between Ireland and fiscal ruin stood three people. Brian Cowen, Taoiseach, previous MoF, overseer of the biggest vanilla property boom ever seen in the EU, Mary Coughlan, Tanaiste, idiot savant, and Brian Lenihan, the smartest guy in the room.
Alas, Brian wasn't the smartest guy in the room anymore. That would be the lying bankers. A lifetime of being servile to the interests of FF ensured that he never questioned Brian Cowen. His inexperience in his brief ensured that he trusted his department officials, even if they insisted the problem was liquidity and not solvency.
And now we get to the crux of Brian Lenihan Jr. This was a brilliant, affable, and intelligent man. Someone who would make a consummate politician, statesman, Taoiseach. A man far, far abler than any of his peers in FF. And yet, and yet, this is a man that saw his father shafted by his party for political expediency after decades of loyal service. This is a man who sacrificed his career in memory of his father. This is a man who every day he looked at his brother could see how lucky random chance can be. This is a man who kept his mouth shut for 11 years where he was pointedly ignored by a charlatan masquerading as a leader of the country. And when finally asked to step into the breach with all this experience, knowledge and baggage, comprehensively failed the people of this country.
Brian Lenihan is a statesman? He was no such thing. Above all politicians this learned, intelligent and able individual never put his country first. Because his first loyalty was to his party and his leader. Excusable perhaps for some neophyte journeyman, but inexcusable for a veteran in realpolitik, who given an opportunity to redress the wrongs slung at his father, compounded them in his miserable cowardly failure to stand up for the State against the party.
Brian Lenihans legacy is to financially cripple this State, to stigmatise this state with an IMF and EU bailout, and to destroy his reputation not just through his actions, but also his inactions, and in his inability to never once admit that he, or the party he served with such blind stupidity were wrong in any - ANY - of their financial actions.
J'accuse Brian Lenihan. Failure to the citizens of this country.