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Adviser was `a personal friend of Minister'

GOBNAIT O' Connell who tragically died in yesterday's horrific road smash was the personal adviser to Health Minister Micheal Martin, since he took over the office earlier this year.

Last night the Minister was said to be devasted and deeply shocked by the untimely death of one of his closest political confidants.



``She was a personal friend of the Minister and his family as well as being a special advisor,'' said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.



``Gobnait was a deeply committed public servant and everyone who knew and worked with her is numbed by her death,'' he added.



The energetic and talented Cork-born former nurse had already made her mark in health politics which is rarely free of controversy.



Gobnait (35), from Cullen, Millstreet, left her nursing post in Cork to become an industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses Organisation.



She loved the cut and thrust of being part of the the largest nurses' union and achieved success in intervening and solving disputes.



Her love of politics and Fianna Fail saw her take her annual leave three years ago to canvass for Michael Moynihan, who was elected to Cork North West.



Gobnait's campaign contribution was seen a key role in his election and she decided to take a career break to work in the Fianna Fail head office in Dublin. She became membership secretary and was in charge of womens' organisation.



TIPPED

She was tipped as a future general secretary of the party and when the current Health Minister took over last January he asked her to become his adviser.



Ms O'Connell was involved in the negotiations on the issue of legal fees for the Irish Haemophilia Society which threatened to delay the Lindsay Tribunal.



Her strengths were a warm personality and having worked in the frontline of the health service she knew the pressures faced by those caring for patients.



Yesterday she was at the Minister's side when he addressed unions in Tullamore and a key adviser on his speech.



Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses Organisation said last night: ``The whole of the INO is in mourning at the tragic loss of Gobnait. She was our Gobnait.''