Michael Noonan retires to the back benches

Michael Noonan, one of Fine Gael’s most recogniseable faces, has stepped down from frontline duty and retired to the back benches after a decades-long career under successive leaders.
Born in Loughill in 1943, Mr Noonan has been a TD since 1981 and has been a minister in every Fine Gael-led government since 1982, serving in the cabinets of Garret FitzGerald, John Bruton and Enda Kenny. He served as Minister for Justice from 1982 to 1986, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1986 to 1987, Minister for Health from 1994 to 1997, and was Minister for Finance from March 2011 until yesterday when he stepped down. Mr Noonan was also elected leader of the Fine Gael party in 2001, taking over from John Bruton.
Mr Noonan spoke this week of looking forward to life away from the intensity of the front line, and while attending the opening of the new emergency department at University Hospital Limerick on Monday he said: “I have another bit to do now as a contrary backbencher from Wednesday until I leave politics at the next election. The function of a contrary backbencher is to light a fire under the appropriate minister, and ask parliamentary questions which don’t have an answer.”