FIANNA Fáil leader, Micheál Martin TD, has led the tributes to former Minister for Defence, Michael J Noonan, who passed away on Tuesday evening.
Mr Noonan died peacefully at Milford Hospice after a long illness. He was aged 78.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister Michael J Noonan,” commented Mr Martin this Wednesday.
“I wish to extend my sympathies and that of the Fianna Fáil party to Michael’s wife, Helen, and their six children.”
A native of Bruff, Michael J Noonan served as a TD for Limerick West from 1969 to 1997 and as minister for defence from 1987 to 1989 in the Charles Haughey-led government.
Since news broke of his passing on Tuesday evening, politicians from across the political divide have paid warm tributes to Mr Noonan who entered public life in 1967 when he was elected to Limerick County Council.
His former political rival in the West Limerick constituency, Gerry Collins, described him this Wednesday as “a gentleman in every sense of the word”.
“He was extremely well respected throughout the county and very well liked, very dedicated and determined,” he said.
“He was a great family man and a man who wasn’t afraid to speak out and make his views known - a good way to be.”
During each general election from 1969 to 1997, both Mr Noonan and Mr Collins consistently took two seats for the Fianna Fail party in the three-seater Limerick West constituency. “He had a very fine sense of humour,” Mr Collins recalled, “which he used to great political advantage in defusing tensions during the course of the many highly sensitive political issues.
“He served in government at a time of great political turmoil in the country when the IRA were running rampant. Obviously, issues became emotional but Michael had that great ability of defusing situations.”
Mr Noonan’s close friend, political ally, and next-door neighbour, John Clifford from Bruff, said Mr Noonan’s popularity and standing within the local community was very evident from the level of interest in his well-being over the last weeks of his life. “I have met so many people and the first thing they would say to me is:‘How is Michael J?’,” said Mr Clifford. “‘Such an honourable man, a pure gentleman’ they would add.
“The service he gave to his local community and voluntary organisations around the county was second to none. He will be sorely missed,” added Mr Clifford.
In a statement, Mr Noonan’s family have expressed sincere thanks to the many people throughout the country who became his close friends over the decades, in public life. “Michael’s loss will be sorely felt by very many but his loss as a husband and as a father will be the most difficult,” the statement read.
Mr Noonan will be reposing at his home at Crean, Bruff, this Thursday afternoon from 3pm to 8pm. Funeral Mass takes place at 12 noon at the church in Meanus, on Friday, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
For more on the sad passing of Michael J Noonan, see the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader