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Tributes paid to barrister and political pundit Noel Whelan

Former Fianna Fáil adviser Noel Whelan passed away on Wednesday evening

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has paid tribute to barrister and political pundit Noel Whelan, who has died after a short illness.

The 50-year-old former Fianna Fáil adviser passed away on Wednesday evening.

The well-known commentator and father-of-one was instrumental in leading the campaign to introduce same-sex marriage and repealing the Eighth Amendment.

He also founded the Kennedy Summer School, a festival of Irish and American culture in Co Wexford and was a regular contributor to the Irish Times.

He was married to Sinead McSweeney and they have one son, Seamus.

Ms McSweeney was the PSNI's director of media and public relations between 2004 –2007.

The Fianna Fáil leader described Mr Whelan as a man with "sharp intellect".

"I was very saddened to hear about the death of Noel, who I have known for many years," Mr Martin said.

"Noel was a man with a sharp intellect who was born into a Fianna Fáil family. His father was a Fianna Fáil councillor, as is his brother Michael in Co Wexford. Noel was steeped in local, national and international politics from a very young age."

Mr Whelan worked at Fianna Fáil headquarters the early 1990s.

"From there he learned to be a great political pundit who wrote many books on election results and an extensive book on our party through the decades," Mr Martin said.

"He understood and knew every constituency and local electoral area across the country and could, of the top of his head, remember quotas from an election held back in the 80s. He was a diligent political adviser to Tom Kitt and Noel himself ran for Fianna Fáil in both a Dáil and Seanad election."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted: "So sad to hear that Noel Whelan has passed away.

"We come from different party backgrounds but I feel this morning like Ireland has lost a friend. Such a sharp intellect.

"So articulate and effective on marriage equality."

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