Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s son Tom said his father used to cry at home at the kitchen table over cuts he had to make during the financial crisis.
In an emotional interview about his father’s death and his own battle with depression Lenihan, 21, said his father, who was deputy leader of Fianna Fail before he died, was deeply affected by the financial hardship being suffered around him.
Lenihan, who is now president of Trinity College Student Union, told Ryan Tubridy on his RTE radio show, “He would have shed tears at people facing cuts. He found it hard to balance things that are just impossible moral choices.”
“I would have said, ‘What do you think is in the national interest? How do you make it as fair as possible? How do you balance the supposed best course of action with the problems at the time.’”
Lenihan spoke about his own struggles with depression. He revealed that he struggled with alcohol in college and had suicidal thoughts. He also said that he was on anti-depression medication.
“I was drinking a lot and that followed me through college,” he said.
His problems culminated when he was caught cheating in a third year exam because he was not prepared for it through his drinking.
“I wasn’t on my medication. I don’t think I was myself. When it came down to it, I cheated in an exam and I was caught…I knew straight away I was in trouble. It was a wake-up call that I needed to take better care of myself.”
Lenihan revealed he doesn’t support Fianna Fail and only voted for his father in a general election.
He could not reconcile his views with Fianna Fail because of some of its stances on issues, including abortion.
“I find that they are a very conservative party that tends to care for the middle aged and the middle class rather than looking outwardly at our future,” he said.
Lenihan also revealed that he didn’t want his father to resign as finance minister when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“I think he would have been frustrated at home,” Lenihan said. “I think he saw meaning in the job.”
He would have felt guilty if his father had resigned due to his own struggles. “At the same time I wanted my dad to die peacefully and I wanted to create as little tension as I could regarding my own demons. I wanted to try and be there for my dad,” Lenihan said.
He has no wish to follow his late father into politics but, since the age of 15, he wanted to be a filmmaker.
“My dad was quite sceptical but when he saw how passionate I was about it, he said go for it,” Lenihan said.
Brian Lenihan died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 52 in June 2011.