Curtain to come down on Noonan's unique lifetime in Limerick and Irish politics
Michael Noonan had led Fine Gael to its worst electoral calamity since 1944 when he told the nation on May 18, 2002, that he was quitting as party leader.
Just four days shy of his 59th birthday, it was reasonable to assume that this was the beginning of the end in politics for the former schoolteacher, who had served two stints in cabinet, and never shrunk from controversy. Anyone suggesting that he would be a major figure in Irish government 15 years hence would have been dismissed out of hand.
Added to these apparently terminal political reverses was the emerging gradual loss to him of his glamorous wife, Florence, who was increasingly losing her faculties to Alzheimer's disease. The extent of this private grief did not emerge until 2012 in a very moving television interview when he was finance minister working to lead Ireland's economic revival.