Conor Lenihan

Conor Lenihan (born 3 March 1963) is an Irish former Fianna Fáil politician who served as Minister of State for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources from 2009 to 2011, Minister of State for Integration Policy from 2007 to 2009 and Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights from 2004 to 2007. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 1997 to 2011.

Conor Lenihan
Lenihan (2nd from right)
Minister of State for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources
In office
22 April 2009  9 March 2011
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister of State for Integration Policy
In office
20 June 2007  21 April 2009
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Brian Cowen
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights
In office
29 September 2004  20 June 2007
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1997  February 2011
ConstituencyDublin South-West
Personal details
Born (1963-03-03) 3 March 1963
Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFianna Fáil
Spouse(s)Denise Lenihan (m. 1999)
ResidenceMoscow, Russia
Alma mater

He was from 2011 to 2015 a Vice President of the Skolkovo Foundation,[1] the coordination body for a planned high-tech innovation centre on the edge of Moscow, where he worked on international partnership development.[2]

Early and personal life

Lenihan was born in Dublin in 1963. He lived in Athlone until he was 11 years of age. He was educated at Belvedere College, University College Dublin (where he was chair of the Kevin Barry Cumann of Ógra Fianna Fáil), Dublin City University and the INSEAD.

Lenihan began his working life as a newspaper journalist working in the 1980s in the House of Commons in London, where he was a political correspondent for the Irish News. While in London he was also a member of the European Commission's Speakers Panel.

In the 1990s he went into broadcast journalism working with the Dublin radio station 98FM. Lenihan also worked as a senior executive with O2, an Irish-owned mobile operator, and subsequently worked as an advisor for the company.

Lenihan is the son of former Tánaiste, TD and Minister Brian Lenihan. His grandfather, Patrick Lenihan, also served in the Oireachtas. His aunt, Mary O'Rourke, is a former TD, Senator and Minister, while his brother, Brian Lenihan Jnr was a TD and most notably Minister for Finance during the Irish economic downturn from 2008 to 2011.

Lenihan was diagnosed with a benign tumour in 2007.[3]

Lenihan was also the editor of The Nation, the official publication of the Fianna Fáil party.

Political career

Lenihan was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1997 general election.[4]

In Bertie Ahern's cabinet reshuffle of 2004, he was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for Overseas Development and Human Rights. Lenihan restructured Ireland's international aid programme, creating Irish Aid, the Irish Government's programme of assistance to developing countries. Through Irish Aid, Lenihan administered a budget of almost a billion euros which is used to help developing nations thus continuing Ireland's tradition of reaching out to other post-colonial nations.

In 2007, he became Ireland's first Minister of State for Integration and led a government initiative to deal with large volume immigration into Ireland which culminated with the publication of a new policy statement "Migration Nation.[5]

As Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, he created a single budget line for science and technology funding as well as participating in the country's Innovation Task Force. As part of his role in the Ministry he participated in trade and investment missions, frequently presenting to top global companies who already invest in Ireland or were about to do so. He was a member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Economic Recovery.

He lost his seat at the 2011 general election, with his first preference vote declining from 20.5% in 2007 to just 5%. He placed eight in the poll and was eliminated on the fourth count.[6]

In October 2018, Lenihan announced his intention to seek the Fianna Fáil nomination for the Dublin constituency in the 2019 European Parliament elections.[7] At the party candidate selection meeting February 2019 Lenihan placed fourth out of four candidates with 108 votes of the 838 ballots cast.[8]


Attitude to immigrants

Lenihan was involved in some controversy on 18 May 2005, when off-microphone he told opposition TD Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party that he should "stick to [helping] the kebabs",[9] a reference to the Turkish workers who were making a legal challenge against their employer, GAMA. Lenihan apologised in the Dáil for the remarks.[10]

In 2007, he banned Gardaí and Garda reserves from wearing the Sikh turban, saying "if we are to take integration seriously, people who come here must understand our way of doing things. When the President and Ministers travel to the Middle East, they accept cultural requirements of the country and the culture in which they are operating. It is a vice-versa situation with regard to Ireland".[11]

The Origin of Specious Nonsense

In September 2010, Lenihan attracted controversy when it emerged that he was to attend the launch of The Origin of Specious Nonsense, an anti-evolution book by John J. May. PZ Myers, on his Pharyngula blog, expressed shock that a Minister of State with special responsibility for Science would lend support to such a book.[12] Lenihan claimed that he was "not launching the book as Minister for Science but rather as a TD because May is a constituent of his".[13] In the wake of this controversy, May asked Lenihan not to launch the book "because I am so embarrassed that the Minister for Science has been so insulted" and "eviscerated" on a political website.[14]

Tonight with Vincent Browne

While appearing in March 2011 on Tonight with Vincent Browne on television, presenter Vincent Browne asked if there was “a happy coincidence” between matters of national importance and what Lenihan was personally interested in, leading to what The Irish Times described as “some on-air rage”.[15]

Post political career

In July 2011, Lenihan joined Skolkovo Foundation, a planned scientific and innovation center outside Moscow, Russia.[16] In August 2012, Lenihan joined the board of San Leon Energy, an oil and gas explorer with concessions in Poland, Albania, Morocco and Ireland.[17]


  1. "Conor Lenihan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  2. McQuinn, Cormac (1 February 2019). "'I've nothing to hide about my work in Russia' - Conor Lenihan as he rejects Trump comparisons". Irish Independent.
  3. "Irish minister in TV tumour spot". BBC News. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  4. "Conor Lenihan". Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  5. "Minister for Integration, launches 'Migration Nation' a Statement on Integration Strategy and Diversity Management". AN ROINN DLÍ AGUS CIRT AGUS COMHIONANNAIS DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND EQUALITY. Department of Justice and Equality. May 1, 2008. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  6. "Dublin South-West". RTÉ News. 28 February 2011. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012.
  7. "Kevin Doyle: 'Fianna Fáil's capital battle: three dynasties and a gay rights lobbyist line up'". Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  9. "FF leader Martin in Chinese gaffe". The Irish Times. 12 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  10. "Higgins reacts to Lenihan 'kebabs' remark". RTÉ News. 18 May 2005. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  11. "Granting special status doesn't help integration". Sunday Independent. 19 August 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  12. "How about the Irish Minister of State with special responsibility for pseudoscience?". ScienceBlogs. Archived from the original on 16 September 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
  13. "Lenihan to launch anti-evolution book". The Irish Times. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
  14. "Minister withdraws from launch of anti-evolution book". The Irish Times. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  15. Heaney, Mick (31 March 2011). "A new heavyweight in light entertainment". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  16. Smyth, Sam (20 August 2011). "Crisis for Martin as Lenihans opt out of election". Irish Independent.
  17. "Lenihan carves out new role as he joins board of Polish energy business". Irish Independent. 19 August 2012.
Preceded by
Eamonn Walsh
(Labour Party)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Dublin South-West
Succeeded by
Seán Crowe
(Sinn Féin)
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Kitt
Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights
Succeeded by
Michael Kitt
Preceded by
New office
Minister of State for Integration Policy
Succeeded by
John Curran
Preceded by
New office
Minister of State for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources
Office abolished
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