"Heartbroken" Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has paid tribute to her wife Ann Louise Gilligan who has died following an illness, writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor.
In a statement released this morning, Ms Zappone said she has lost her love.
She was absent from the Dáil yesterday for the announcement of the new Cabinet.
“I am heartbroken following the passing of my beloved Ann Louise. Since 1981 she has been my love and my life-partner," she said.
"Ann Louise was an educator extraordinaire. She 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," she added.
"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," Ms Zappone said.
"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," Ms Zappone said.
"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," she said.
"I want to offer my deepest appreciation to 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," she said.
Arrangements for those who wish to remember Ann Louise will be made public in the coming days, the minister said.