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Sunday 26 March 2017

Finance Minister Michael Noonan recovering in hospital after undergoing surgery for 'fluid in the chest'

Finance Minister insists he is “well on the mend”

Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Tom Burke

John Downing, Political Correspondent

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has spent Christmas in hospital after undergoing surgery for what is described as “fluid in the chest area.”

It is understood Mr Noonan underwent the operation last week and is reported to be recovering well in a Dublin hospital.

Sources say the development will not have a bearing on the timing of the general election which was due to be called late next month with polling day in late February.

Mr Noonan has himself issued the following personal statement on the matter:

“Two weeks before Christmas I attended my doctor and was diagnosed with an infection involving fluid in the chest area.

“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 upcoming general election,” Mr Noonan said.

The 72-year-old father of five grown children was a central figure in Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael-Labour coalition over the past five years. He was set to play a big role in the government’s general election campaign.

The Limerick TD 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 more recently Finance Minister.

He led Fine Gael from February 2001 until May 2002 when he resigned after a disastrous election for the party which lost 23 Dáil seats.

Many observers felt his career was coming to a close after that as he was 59 years old.  He was replaced as Fine Gael leader by Enda Kenny with whom he had a difficult relationship over the years prior to that.

But gradually relations thawed and Kenny had him appointed to chair the Public Accounts Committee in 2004.  Later Noonan took a back seat to help him concentrate on his wife Florence’s health difficulties.

In 2010 he spoke movingly about Florence’s progressive dementia which meant she often scarcely knew him as her condition worsened. Mrs Noonan died in February 2012, less than a year after he had taken over as Finance Minister.

Noonan got the finance post after remaining aloof from the June 2010 botched leadership heave against Enda Kenny. He became the party’s finance spokesman after that incident and moved easily to the job of Finance Minister in March 2011.

In late 2007, Michael Noonan underwent a successful heart bypass operation.  In summer of 2014 he received radiotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer.

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, an illness which claimed his life in June 2011.

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