Minister Katherine Zappone 'heartbroken' at death of wife Dr Ann Louise Gilligan
Tributes paid to 'educator extraordinaire' who taught thousands of teachers
Tributes have been paid after Children's Minister Katherine Zappone confirmed her wife, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, has died.
In a statement, released this morning, the Minister said she was "heartbroken following the passing of my beloved Ann Louise".
The couple have been together since 1981 and married in 2003.
Ms Zappone said Dr Gilligan was an "educator extraordinaire" who taught at St Patricks, Drumcondra and DCU.
"Her exceptional love of children lives on through the work of the thousands of primary school teachers she educated throughout the country.
"As co-founder and director of An Cosan a centre of learning, leadership and enterprise in Jobstown, Tallaght West Ann Louise demonstrated her commitment and love for the people of Tallaght and the wider communities. Her vision was that education transformed poverty and she believed in the power of imagination to bring about personal and social change.
"As a champion of equality, fairness and justice Ann Louise was fearless. Her courage inspired us to make the ultimate commitment with our marriage in British Columbia in 2003."
"The joy of that day was matched for Ann Louise when after tireless campaigning through the courts, the Oireachtas and ultimately on the doorsteps we helped secure marriage equality for everyone in Ireland. "
The couple - who have been at the front line of the battle for equal marriage rights - got engaged on live television after Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote.
They wed for the second time in City Hall in January 2016.
Their wedding was attended by President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina among other high profile people from across the political spectrum.
The then Senator Zappone said at the time "it's a beautiful day in every sense".
Ms Zappone thanked Professor Joe Harbison and the dedicated team at MISA in St James Hospital who looked after Ann Louise during her recent brief illness. "They provided care, comfort and support for which I will be forever grateful."
Ms Zappone attended cabinet on Tuesday but was unavailable yesterday and this was acknowledged in new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's speech.
In a statement Mr Varadkar said:
"I am very saddened to learn of the death of Dr Ann Louise Gilligan. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies, and those of all her government colleagues, to Dr Gilligan's wife, Minister Katherine Zappone.
"Dr Gilligan was deeply committed to education and equality and made a lasting contribution to Irish society, in particular as co-founder and director of An Cosan and through her work in campaigning for marriage equality."
Tributes have been paid to Dr Gilligan online with former Tanaiste Joan Burton describing her as a "social justice campaigner".
Amnesty International Director Colm O'Gorman wrote: "We have lost an amazing Irish woman."
Senator Lynn Ruane wrote: "When u know ur in the presence of pure goodness. AnnLouise gave me the greatest gift of education & continued 2 till the end. My love to KZ."
Very sad to hear of the passing of Dr Ann Louise Gilligan wife of Minister Katherine Zappone. She was a beacon of light and hope. https://t.co/J7i1ieWh1J— Jillian van Turnhout (@JillianvT) June 15, 2017
Condolences 2 Katherine Zappone on sad death of her spouse Anne Louise Gilligan. Bean uasal Anne Louise. Tá sí ar slí an fhirrine anios.— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) June 15, 2017
Such heartbreaking news this morning - sincere sympathy to Katherine Zappone at this horribly difficult time. May Ann Louise rest in peace. https://t.co/HHGfdeuj43— Sen Catherine Noone (@senatornoone) June 15, 2017
When u know ur in the presence of pure goodness. AnnLouise gave me the greatest gift of education & continued 2 till the end. My love to KZ pic.twitter.com/G0hP7FglnV— Lynn Ruane (@SenLynnRuane) June 15, 2017
Funeral arrangements will be made in the coming days.