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Minister 'heartbroken' at death of wife

Dr Anne Louise Gilligan (left) with Katherine Zappone outside the Dail
Dr Anne Louise Gilligan (left) with Katherine Zappone outside the Dail

Tributes have been paid after Children's Minister Katherine Zappone confirmed that her wife, Dr Anne 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.

Tribute 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."

Funeral arrangements will be made in the coming days.