Michael Noonan is ready for election campaign in spite of surgery
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has insisted he will be back at work next week after undergoing surgery and is looking forward to the forthcoming election campaign.
Mr Noonan spent Christmas in hospital, where he had an operation for what he said was "fluid in the chest area".
Last night he insisted he was "well on the mend", ready to attend next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting and preparing for the election canvass.
He underwent the surgical procedures on Monday of last week and is reported to be recovering well in a Dublin hospital.
Sources said the development will not change the timing of the general election which was due to be called late next month with polling day in late February.
Mr Noonan took the un- usual step of issuing a personal statement.
"Two weeks before Christmas, I attended my doctor and was diagnosed with an infection involving fluid in the chest area," he said.
"I subsequently underwent some medical procedures and I am now well on the mend.
"I will be attending Cabinet on January 5 and I look forward to contesting the election."
The statement came after rumours that Mr Noonan had undergone a heart bypass and was seriously ill.
The Limerick City Fine Gael TD had a heart bypass in the autumn of 2007. Last year, he received radium treatment for cancer.
The minister's hospitalisation was kept a closely-guarded secret until news of it leaked yesterday.
It has emerged that Labour colleagues did not know about it until media reports last evening. Fine Gael colleagues were not told either.
The 72-year-old father of five grown children has been a central figure in Enda Kenny's Fine Gael-Labour coalition over the past five years, and was set to play a big part in the election campaign.
Mr Noonan has been in politics since 1974, when he was elected to Limerick County Council. He has been a TD since May 1981 and served in government on three occasions as justice, industry, health and finance minister.
In 2010 he spoke movingly about his wife Florence's progressive dementia which meant she often scarcely knew him. She died in February 2012, less than a year after he was appointed finance minister.
It is the second time in recent years that a finance minister has been stricken by illness. In December 2009, it emerged that Brian Lenihan had pancreatic cancer. He died in June 2011.