Minister Zappone heartbroken at loss of 'fearless' wife
Katherine Zappone has said she is "heartbroken" at the death of her wife, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, as tributes poured in for the prominent equality campaigner.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar praised Dr Gilligan for making a "lasting contribution to Irish society" and extended his "deepest sympathies" to the Minister for Children.
Ms Zappone said that Dr Gilligan "has been my love and my life-partner" since 1981 and described her as an "educator extraordinaire".
They co-founded the An Cosán community education centre in Tallaght and Dr Gilligan taught primary school teachers. The pair married in Canada in 2003 and were high-profile campaigners for marriage equality in Ireland.
Ms Zappone proposed to her wife in Dublin Castle on the day the 'Yes' campaign triumphed in the 2015 referendum. The pair renewed their vows last year.
Ms Zappone said "as a champion of equality, fairness and justice, Ann Louise was fearless".
Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who attended An Cosán as a young mother, said Dr Gilligan was an "educator through and through" and brought a "gentle, pure nature" to her work in Tallaght. She extended her sympathies to Ms Zappone.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said Dr Gilligan made Ireland a "more equal, more compassionate and kinder place".
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said her work has been "transformative to so many lives", while Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said she was a "fierce and dedicated campaigner" for equality. Dr Gilligan died after a brief illness in St James's Hospital. Her funeral will take place in Dublin tomorrow.