Revelations show politician to be a loving, honorable husband

News of the Al and Tipper Gore's separation came only two days after I watched an interview with Irish politician about his wife. The former leader of the Fine Gael party, Michael Noonan spoke movingly and lovingly about his wife Florence, who is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease. The contrast between Al Gore and Noonan is very stark, but at the same time both stories serve as a reminder that you don't really know what goes on in any politician's marriage.

Noonan {photo} was interviewed on TV about this side of his life that nobody - other than his family - knew about. Florence Noonan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 12 years ago when she was 54. Michael Noonan decided to tell the story of his wife's illness and its impact on her, him and their children following an RTE investigation last week on Alzheimer's and the treatments and help available here.

{You might be able to view this interview here - go to around the 24" mark.}

I was amazed as I listened as I kept wondering how Noonan was able to carry on a normal life in politics while he was going through this traumatic experience. Even in Ireland politics is pretty high-pressure and carries a fair bit of media intrusion, although obviously nothing like what leading American politicians such as Gore have to endure.

Yet Noonan, with the help of their children, was looking after his wife as he assumed the role of leader of the party and fought the 2002 general election. How he managed to do this while nobody even in Fine Gael even seemed to know what he was going through is beyond me.

What I like about Noonan's desire to keep this private is that he must have been aware that one of his big problems was that he didn't have much charisma and his manner made him a fairly unsympathetic character. Basically he wasn't the kind of man who came across as likable on the television or radio.

On Monday night that all changed as I doubt there was a person in Ireland who didn't see him a new light. He came across as incredibly dignified and noble, two traits that would have helped him immeasurably in politics. Yet dignity was more important to him than a base attempt to use his wife's condition in a base attempt to win the voters' affections. Admirable.

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