Friday 23 February 2018

Ever the fighter, Finance Minister has no intention of stepping down

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to speak to the media today. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to speak to the media today. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

MICHAEL Noonan's announcement of his treatment for cancer immediately brought back sad memories of Brian Lenihan's battle with the disease. But there are substantial differences between the diagnosis of the Finance Minister and his predecessor.

The late Mr Lenihan lost his fight with pancreatic cancer three years ago next week.

From the outset, he knew the odds were against him and his bravery struck a chord with many as he struggled on during a fateful period in the economic history of the nation.

Despite the opprobrium heaped upon the administration in which he served, which was responsible for the country entering an EU-IMF bailout, Mr Lenihan is still held in high regard by the public at large.

Mr Noonan's account of his own illness provides a more positive outlook. After guiding the country out of the bailout, the Finance Minister is signalling his intent to stay on his position for the remainder of the Government's term of office.

Mr Noonan's decision to go public with his illness followed word of it leaking into the media but he provided greater detail to "ensure accuracy and clarity".

The minister has been privately dealing with his illness for the past four months after finding a lump on his right arm around the shoulder.

Medical tests diagnosed the lump as a sarcoma which needed to be removed and he received five weeks of radiotherapy in St Luke's Hospital in March and April to reduce the size of the tumour.

Last week, he had the tumour removed at Cappagh Hospital and was discharged at the weekend.

Mr Noonan's doctors believe the treatment has been effective and are upbeat that the cancer has cleared.

There were concerns among the medical team that the tumour would penetrate deep into the muscle, which would have resulted in a chunk of his shoulder having to be removed. But Mr Noonan says there is no damage to his shoulder muscle and his risk of recurrence of the illness is low.

Officials in the Department of Finance were not aware of his illness until yesterday. His family and close associates were told and he also kept Taoiseach Enda Kenny informed from the off of the progress in his treatment.

Mr Noonan is clearly in no mood to stand down, even with a cabinet reshuffle approaching.

"I will continue to serve as Minister for Finance at the Taoiseach's discretion," he said.

Although his role hasn't got any easier with the exit from the bailout, Mr Noonan is to be applauded for showing this commitment.

At this stage of his career, nobody would blame him for stepping off the pitch.

The decision on whether Mr Noonan should continue is ultimately the Taoiseach's but he will be guided by the minister's own judgement.

It's four years this month since Mr Noonan re-emerged into a position of prominence by becoming Fine Gael finance spokesman in the wake of the leadership heave.

His experience has proven invaluable to Mr Kenny ever since.

The Finance Minister has gone through health scares before and has emerged as ready for action as ever.

Today, he will be showing he is unaffected by the illness when he conducts media interviews and will take Leaders' Questions in the Dail as the Taoiseach travels to the US on a trade mission this morning.

Mr Noonan has always been aware of the gaze of the public eye and conducted himself with enormous dignity when he spoke in a heartwrenching interview of his late wife, Flor, suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

On that occasion, he touched a chord with many who saw loved ones suffer in this manner.

Again, Mr Noonan is an example to many of how to fight a battle and come out the far side.

Irish Independent

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