Taoiseach's tribute as Noonan's wife Florence dies at 68
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan was today mourning the death of his wife Florence at the age of 68. The Taoiseach and Mr Noonan's opponents in Fianna Fail all paid tribute to Mrs Noonan.
Television viewers had seen Mr Noonan's great love for his wife on a programme cataloguing her brave battle with Alzheimer's.
Viewers were touched as they saw the normally steely Finance Minister shed tears as he told of the toll of the disease on his wife. He described how she had lost all mobility and was in the final stages of the illness.
He explained that, at the age of just 54, Flor uncharacteristically began forgetting things.
"She'd lose her keys, she'd forget to bring her handbag with her. She'd go shopping and she couldn't find the car in the car park," he told Pat Kenny on Frontline.
Doctors thought that she was suffering from depression and that this was causing short-term memory loss.
But Mr Noonan said: "It was a concern she always had because her mother had died of Alzheimer's and it was in her head that there was a possibility so we were all very alert when she began to forget things."
The family's private battle got worse during Mr Noonan's time as Fine Gael leader between 2001 and 2002.
"There was a lot of stress in the family," he said, adding: "Flor took a full part in the 2002 general election. When I was out around the country doing the leader things she was working at home and out canvassing every night."
Mrs Noonan had been in a nursing home for several years. Her health had deteriorated in recent weeks and she died at Milford Hospice in Co Limerick.
Mr Noonan had been by Flor's bedside since she was taken to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital suffering with pneumonia.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today: "On behalf of the Government, I express my deep condolences to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan on the passing of his wife Florence.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael, their daughters and sons, and their extended family at this time of great loss."
Mrs Noonan, of Castlemaine, Co Kerry, was married to Mr Noonan for 43 years and the couple had five children - sons Tim, John and Michael and daughters Orla and Deidre.
Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea, who represents the same Limerick constituency as Mr Noonan, recalled Flor's "fantastic personality".
"She was hugely respected. In the early days, when Michael was regarded as quite abrasive, she softened his hard edges.
"She was an absolute lady," Mr O'Dea told the Herald.