Noonan set to play key election role in media while Kenny travels the country
Published 30/12/2015 | 02:30
Finance Minister Michael Noonan's role in the general election campaign is to be largely concentrated on high-profile media appearances.
He is said to be recovering well in hospital following surgery and Fine Gael bosses expect him to continue working as part of their economic policy team early in the new year.
The 72-year-old is determined to "play his part" in trying to get a Fine Gael government re-elected for the first time in history and sources say he is in "good form".
Strategists remain keen for him to take on key media appearances while Taoiseach Enda Kenny is more focused on a nationwide constituency tour.
Mr Noonan confirmed on Monday evening that he spent Christmas in a Dublin hospital where he underwent surgery to remove fluid from the chest area.
He attended a doctor two weeks before the holidays and was diagnosed with an infection.
"I subsequently underwent some medical procedures and I am now well on the mend," he said, adding that he intends to be at the next Cabinet meeting which is scheduled for January 5.
Mr Noonan, along with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Minister of State Simon Harris, has been working on Fine Gael's key economic policies ahead of the general election and strategists want him to be front and centre for some key announcements during the campaign.
It is understood that although much of the policy work is complete and ready to be transferred into the party's manifesto, there is "a fair bit of detail" which Mr Noonan will be expected to complete.
Sources say that Mr Noonan's role in the build-up to the election will be to appear at key moments in the campaign to outline the party's economic plan.
"His role in the campaign will be largely media-based.
"It was never in the plan that he'd be doing big constituency tours or anything like that.
"The Taoiseach is good at that end of things," said a source.
"Even before his latest health issues, the view would have been that he should be in a studio talking to hundreds of thousands of people rather than going around towns talking to small crowds."
Despite his hospitalisation senior party sources remain "utterly sure" Mr Noonan will not backtrack on his commitment to contest the election in his Limerick city constituency.
"A lot of these guys have never before seen Fine Gael win back-to-back elections so they want to be part of that, if it can be done. And he does genuinely feel that he has a job to finish.
"In two or three years' time, this country will be a really different place and Michael Noonan has been part of that," said a party source.
Prior to being hospitalised, Mr Noonan continued to fulfil his Department of Finance diary commitments and was canvassing locally.
His illness was a closely guarded secret, with most of his colleagues unaware that he had undergone surgery until it was reported in the media.
Last year, Mr Noonan had surgery to remove a lump from his shoulder that had been diagnosed as cancerous.
And eight years ago, the father of five underwent a triple heart by-pass.
Mr Noonan is considered a 'safe seat' for Fine Gael in a constituency where the other sitting TDs are Kieran O'Donnell (FG), Willie O'Dea (FF) and Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan (Lab).
Sinn Féin are in with a chance of winning a seat through Councillor Maurice Quinlivan.