Brian Lenihan: bruiser or bantamweight?

Now that the dust has settled on Brian Lenihan’s budget début, are we any closer to understanding Lenihan the younger?

Senior Counsel, rising political star, a first in law from TCD and Cambridge and one of the finest minds in the Dáil? Or slash-and-burn merchant, drowning in his portfolio, with a grasp of finance so shallow that he nearly flunked Leaving Cert maths?

Although Lenihan is the scion of a solid FF family, he does not fit the Fianna Fáil mould: using unionist-friendly language, avoiding the famous builders’ tent at the Galway races, and perhaps most unlikely of all, devouring French literature on holiday, rather than typical Fianna Fáil fare. The humourless lawyer stereotype invites obvious comparisons with his counterpart across the Irish Sea.

So far, Lenihan has not shirked tough decisions and has been prepared to endure criticism from many different quarters. But with the poisoned chalice of a Finance portfolio in an economic climate unmatched in its austerity since 1929 (maybe even 1873), will our Brian live up to his promise as an intellectual powerhouse and heir-to-Biffo or become the latest casualty of the credit crunch?

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