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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

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

Dr Gilligan’s wife Katherine Zappone said she is “heartbroken”.

Updated at 2.20pm

90073837_90073837 Graham Hughes / Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan (right) Graham Hughes / /

ANN LOUISE GILLIGAN, the wife of Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, has died.

In a statement released today, 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 talk about how they wanted to get married in Ireland too.

Vote With Us / YouTube

Zappone said today: “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 below video from the day the result was announced in the marriage referendum shows Zappone proposing to Ann Louise live on RTÉ.

Lovin Dublin / YouTube

Zappone added: “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.

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.

She expressed her “deepest appreciation” to Professor Joe Harbison and the dedicated team at MISA in St James Hospital who cared for Ann Louise during her brief illness.

Funeral arrangements will be made public in the coming days. / YouTube

Tributes have been pouring in on social media and across the political spectrum. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “very saddened” to learn of Gilligan’s death.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathies, and those of all her government colleagues, to Dr Gilligan’s wife, Minister Katherine Zappone. Dr Gilligan was deeply committed to education and equality and made a lasting contribution to Irish society, in particular as co-founder and director of An Cosán and through her work in campaigning for marriage equality.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Ireland has “lost a fierce and dedicated campaigner for social and educational equality”, praising her advocacy for marriage equality and work in establishing An Cosán.

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan said: “My deepest sympathy to Katherine Zappone whose marriage to Ann Louise was a shining example of how important it was for Ireland to give the same opportunity for happiness to same-sex couples.

Her loss is great and Ann Louise has left an important legacy.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also hailed “the wonderful legacy” she leaves behind.

Senator Lynn Ruane said that Gilligan had given her “the greatest gift of education”.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: Joe Duffy given the Lord Mayor’s Award for his contribution to Dublin society

Read: Cabinet reshuffle ‘not a great day’ for women, says Burton

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