Right across county Limerick this week, people are coming to terms with the loss of a former T.D. and Government Minister that so many called a friend, Michael J. Noonan.

His death brings to an end a truly remarkable life that was dedicated to the concerns and service of others. Though he departed the political stage in 1997, Michael Noonan continued to serve the people and the community with the same diligence as he did during 28 years in the corridors of power. The former Minister has left a huge legacy of service that is unlikely to be equalled and certainly not surpassed.

Michael John Noonan was born into a farming family at Crean, Bruff in 1935. Following primary education locally, he attended Salesian College, Pallaskenry where he studied agriculture before returning to take up the running of the family farm.

It was through Macra Na Feirme that he first came into public life He served and reorganised the local branch before becoming county secretary in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1963 the organisation’s ultimate top accolade came his way when he was elected Macra Na Feirme National President. Michael J. Noonan is the youngest man ever to have been elected President of the organisation, something that still stands today and is also the only former President to go on and serve as a full cabinet minister.

A great admirer of Sean Lemass, it was natural that a political career would beckon.

When he went before the Fianna Fail selection convention in 1967 he was not selected. The people of Bruff, Grange, Meanus and friends locally encouraged him to stand as Indepen-dent Fianna Fáil and he contested the election and won and in the aftermath of the election along with the late Paddy Sheehy, held the balance of power on the County Council. He served on Limerick County Council from 1967 to 1987 and only stood down on his appointment to cabinet.

Progress up the political ladder quickly followed when he was selected as a Fianna Fail candidate for 1969 General Election in which he was successful before going on to hold a seat for Fianna Fail in West Limerick for 28 years. He always had an ambition to serve in Cabinet and his big break came in 1987 when Charles Haughey appointed him as Minister for Defence, a position he held until 1989.

When he retired from the Dail at the 1997 General Election, he walked away from elected politics only to immerse himself in a myriad of community based activities. He was Secretary of the main Sean Wall Committee, The Sean Wall Memorial Committee, Sean Wall Restoration Co. Ltd and Bruff Housing Co. Ltd and an enthusiastic member of the Bloomsday in Bruff Committee.

Michael was one of the original committee members that established what is now the fine G.A.A. Sports Ground in Bruff. He worked tirelessly to support the work of Margaret Shaughnessy at Foynes Flying Boat Museum. He was a director of Ballyhoura Community Development Co. Ltd, a director of Carebright Company, working for care in the community and a member of the Board of management of Pallaskenry Agricultural College.

Michael J. Noonan was a director and co-founder of General Hardware, Newcastle West.

A deeply religious man and a daily Mass goer, the former Minster was very strong on family values. He was worried by the direction of the Church which he expressed during a lengthy interview with the Vale Star in December 2011 “My God and my religion are very important to me. My faith in the Lord is very important to me in my daily deliber-ations. I am not an extremist but I am saying in my view the importance of the individual should take precedence over the requirements of institutions and structures which in many cases are outdated. The Church hierarchy has to adopt an attitude of compassion and of humility like that practised by Christ. He spoke to everybody and forgave sinners. In my Church, I would like to see more involvement of the people of God as it is a people’s Church and not a Church of the hierarchy.”

In the same interview, he spoke about his battle with prostate cancer and counselled men, “I would say to men to ensure through their G.P. and blood tests that if they do have prostate cancer that it is caught in time, they should have regular checks. Another killer in males is testicular cancer and I would say, especially to young men, to have checks on their bits and pieces from time to time.”

Michael J. Noonan was a generous and com-passionate man who unselfishly gave of himself to others. There is an enormous debt of gratitude due to him, he made many friends and helped countless people during his life’s journey, and he should be remembered for it.