Minister on the mend after chest surgery
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has insisted that he will be back to work next week - and is looking forward to the forthcoming election campaign.
Mr Noonan spent Christmas in hospital after undergoing surgery for what he has described as "fluid in the chest area".
Last night, he insisted that he was "well on the mend," ready to attend next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting and was getting ready for the election canvass.
The Finance Minister underwent the surgical procedures on Monday of last week and is reported to be recuperating well in a Dublin hospital.
Sources say 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 himself took the unusual step of issuing 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."
This followed political rumours around Dublin yesterday that the Finance Minister had undergone a heart bypass and had been seriously ill.
The Limerick city Fine Gael TD had a heart bypass in autumn 2007 and more recently in 2014 he received radium treatment for a rare form of cancer.
His hospitalisation was kept a closely guarded secret until news of it leaked out yesterday.
It has emerged that Labour colleagues did not know about it until media reports yesterday evening - nor had Fine Gael colleagues been told.
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.
He was set to play a big role in the Government's General 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 has served in government on three occasions at Justice, Industry and Health and currently as the Finance Minister.
He led Fine Gael from February 2001 until May 2002, when he resigned after a disastrous election for the party in which it lost 23 Dáil seats.
Many observers felt his career was coming to a close after that as he was then 59. Mr Noonan was replaced as Fine Gael leader by Enda Kenny, with whom he had had a difficult relationship over the years prior to that.
But gradually relations between the two men thawed and Mr Kenny had him appointed to chair the Public Accounts Committee in 2004. Later, Mr 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.
Mr Noonan got the finance post after remaining aloof from the June 2010 botched leadership heave against Mr Kenny.
He became the party's finance spokesman after that incident, replacing Richard Bruton, who had challenged Kenny for the leadership.
He later moved easily into the job of Finance Minister in March 2011 and formed a close working partnership with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin of Labour.
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.