Brian Lenihan, Jnr - Health and Lifestyle

Health and Lifestyle

After a visit by Lenihan to David McWilliams's house, McWilliams publicly claimed that Lenihan had eaten large doses of raw garlic during the visit, and that Lenihan had said he had developed the habit since becoming Minister for Finance. An unnamed source described in the Irish Examiner as "close to Mr Lenihan" subsequently said:

It's true he does like eating garlic, but he doesn't chew it like gum – it's good for the blood, apparently.

Then Minister of State Pat Carey said on the radio at the time that Lenihan "constantly chew garlic".

Lenihan was hospitalised on 16 December 2009, complaining of insomnia and a possible hernia. Surgery, described as "a minor procedure that was brought forward", was performed. Leader of the Opposition Enda Kenny wished him well in a speech. On 26 December 2009, TV3 reported that Lenihan had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The Sunday Times then reported that "a number of authoritative sources" had said the claim was true. Public service broadcaster RTÉ stated that Lenihan had contracted what it described as "a serious condition". The Government Press Secretary stated that the health of a politician is a private affair. The "unwarranted intrusion" by TV3 was met with disapproval – even by opposition politicians; Labour Party deputy leader and Finance Spokesperson Joan Burton offered her condolences: "It's certainly not a departure in the media that I would welcome. I'm really shocked that a story like that could be broadcast at Christmas". However the journalist in question who made the disclosure, Ursula Halligan, received support for report from many publications and journalists including the political bi-weekly Village magazine, Ger Colleran, editor of the Irish Daily Star, the Irish Times and the Phoenix magazine, who stated that "If a report of the finance minister facing a serious illness while simultaneously grappling with the biggest financial crisis in the history of the state is not in the public interest, then nothing is".

In a personal statement on 4 January 2010, detailing the precise nature of his illness, Lenihan said he underwent tests prior to Christmas which identified a blockage at the entrance to his pancreas. He said cancerous tissue was identified in the material that had caused the blockage, and he intended to begin treatment for cancer. Having discussed the matter with his doctors and the Taoiseach, he said he will continue on in the finance portfolio and "to fulfil the essential functions of my office".

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