PROFILE-Ireland’s Finance Minister Brian Lenihan

Position – Finance Minister

Incumbent – Brian Lenihan, age 51

Term: May 2008 until 2012.

Key facts:

— A former justice minister, Lenihan took office in May
2008, when then-Finance Minister Brian Cowen was promoted to
prime minister. He could continue in his role beyond the next
parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2012, but his Fianna
Fail party came in a distant third place in recent opinion
polls, suggesting they will likely be voted out of office.

— Lenihan has been the driving force behind Ireland’s
sharp fiscal reforms, which have pointed the way for other
heavily indebted euro zone members and won the applause of
investors. He is seen by most analysts as the natural successor
to Cowen, and many say he would have already toppled the
current prime minister had he not been diagnosed with cancer
earlier this year. The cancer treatment has not got in the way
of his essential duties so far.

— Taking over as finance minister just as the country’s
“Celtic Tiger” economy began to unravel, Lenihan had to deliver
three budgets in just over a year, introducing harsh spending
cuts and raising taxes in an attempt to get Europe’s worst
public finances under control.

— Lenihan has also led the rescue of Ireland’s banks,
first shocking European partners with a unilateral guarantee
for some 400 billion euros of bank liabilities in 2008 before
bailing out the country’s two largest lenders, nationalizing
the third and taking charge of its two biggest building
societies. Lenihan has also set up a “bad bank” to cleanse
balance sheets after years of risky lending.

— A lawyer by profession and a former university lecturer
of law, Lenihan was born into one of Ireland’s premier
political dynasties. Grandson, son, nephew and brother of four
members of parliament from the dominant Fianna Fail party, he
entered politics in 1995 as his late father, a former deputy
prime minister, left after succumbing to illness.

— Lenihan studied law at Dublin’s Trinity College — where
he later lectured — and Cambridge University. He is also a
fluent French speaker.

— Lenihan said in January this year that a blockage
including cancerous material had been identified at the
entrance to his pancreas. He later said treatment was
proceeding satisfactorily.

— Unlike Prime Minister Brian Cowen and the governing
Fianna Fail party, Lenihan is quite popular among the
electorate despite implementing swinging cuts in his time in
office. A senior Fianna Fail source has told Reuters that if
Lenihan returned to full health he would be put under severe
pressure to mount a leadership challenge against Cowen.

PROFILE-Ireland’s Finance Minister Brian Lenihan