'We have lost the light in our lives'
Martins devastated by death of 'darling' daughter Leana (7)
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and his wife Mary were in mourning last night after the tragic death of their seven-year-old daughter Leana.
The couple said they had lost a "beautiful light in our lives".
The heartbroken couple were at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London, where Leana died after a long illness.
In a statement issued last night on behalf of the family, a spokesman said: "Mary and Micheal are heartbroken at the loss of their darling Leana. The family would appreciate space and privacy at this sad time."
The little girl had been suffering from a serious cardiac illness and her condition had deteriorated over the past fortnight.
The youngest of the Martins' four children, she was initially treated in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, for two weeks.
However, the decision was made to transfer her to Great Ormond Street for a critical surgical procedure last week.
Her condition deteriorated and she was apparently unable to undergo the treatment. She was placed on a life-support machine several days ago.
Mr and Mrs Martin were joined in London by members of their extended family.
Mr and Mrs Martin have three other children, two boys and another girl, ranging in age from seven to 15 years.
Tragically, it is not the first time the couple have lost a child. A baby boy died several days after his birth some 10 years ago. Mr Martin's mother, Eileen Lana Martin, died last April after a long-term illness.
As a mark of respect to the Martin family, yesterday's Cabinet meeting to discuss budgetary matters was adjourned when news of Leana's death was confirmed.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said last night: "I just want to convey on my own behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues our sincere sympathy, solidarity and support to Micheal and Mary and their children at this time.
"The loss of their beloved Leana is a very difficult cross to bear . . . for any family. He has our sympathy at this time."
President Mary McAleese also her expressed her sympathies. "I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of young Leana Martin in Great Ormond Street.
"Leana's death is an unbearable loss for her parents Micheal and Mary, her brothers and sister and the wider Martin clan.
"I know the people of Ireland will feel immense sympathy for the Martin family as they face this devastating bereavement," the President said.
"I have conveyed my heartfelt sympathies, and those of my husband Martin and family, to Micheal and Mary. We are keeping them all in our thoughts and prayers at this very sad time," she added.
Green Party leader John Gormley said he, his cabinet colleague Eamon Ryan, and all party members, had learned of Mr Martin's daughter's death with great sadness.
"Micheal, Mary and their family are very much in our thoughts at this very sad time," Mr Gormley said.
Cork Fianna Fail TD and colleague Michael McGrath extended his deepest sympathies to the minister and his family. Fine Gael's Simon Coveney said it was a tragic time for the minister and his entire family.
"I hope the media and public alike will respect the need for privacy. He and his family need and deserve space at (a) time like this," Mr Coveney said.
Trade Minister Billy Kelleher described the news as "absolutely heartbreaking" for Micheal, Mary and their extended family.
"My heart goes out to them at this very difficult time," he said.
Mr Martin has been a Dail deputy since 1989 and has been a Cabinet minister since 1997. Leana's funeral arrangements have not been finalised as yet, given that it is expected to be several days before the little girl's body is returned to Cork from London.