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Dublin: 11°C Friday 25 September 2020

'An extraordinary person and a beautiful woman': Community turns out to pay respects to Ann Louise Gilligan

Gilligan died following a short illness yesterday.

Gilligan and her wife Katherine Zappone
Gilligan and her wife Katherine Zappone

“She’s a champion. She’s someone who faced adversity and faced right back at it with love and respect.”

- Hundreds turned out to pay their respects to activist Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, the wife of Minister Katherine Zappone, who died yesterday following a short illness.

Gilligan founded An Cosán, an organisation based in Jobstown, Tallaght, which offers adult education and other services to women from disadvantaged areas.

She and  Zappone had strongly campaigned for a Yes vote in the gay marriage referendum in 2015.

A long, snaking line of mourners arrived at the centre and were guided outside to a garden area where the wake was taking place. It was standing room only by the early afternoon, such was the demand to pay respect to a woman who was credited with changing the fortunes of hundreds of women from the area.

Many joined in the singing of Moon River as well as You Raise Me Up as the crowds continued to stream through the doors of the centre.

And it was fitting that her wake was held in the centre which she had helped found.

Those whose lives she had changed turned out, as did their friends and their children, to mark the contribution she made to the area.

Current CEO of An Cosán, Maura McMahon, spoke of the lasting legacy Gilligan will have not just on those who met her but on the generations of Irish people who have yet to be born.

She said: “Ann Louise was an inspirational figure here and we will miss her greatly. Welcome home, Ann Louise. She was an extraordinary person and a beautiful woman. She means so much to me.

“She was composed, humble and certain that everyone could be beautiful. She had a powerful vision. She had this power to show us the beauty we didn’t know we had.”

Senator Lynn Ruane spoke of the impact Gilligan had on her life. For Ruane, Gilligan was her teacher and a role model – someone who helped her craft her own path in life. She said that Gilligan had given her the confidence to pursue what she wanted and that her life was one which inspired scores of people from disadvantaged areas that they could achieve what they wanted.

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In a statement released yesterday, Zappone said that she was “heartbroken following the passing of [her] beloved Ann Louise”. They had been together since 1981.

The pair had strongly advocated for a Yes vote in the marriage equality referendum. Ahead of the vote, they released a video about how they had gone to Canada in 2003 to get married. Here, they talked about how they wanted to get married in Ireland too.

Zappone described her wife as “an educator extraordinaire”.

She had taught at St Patrick’s, Drumcondra and DCU and Zappone said her wife’s “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 Cosán 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.”

Ireland has lost a fierce and dedicated campaigner’: Tributes pour in for Ann Louise Gilligan >

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