PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS has led tributes to the Minister of State, Shane McEntee, who has died aged 56.
The Fine Gael TD for Meath East died at his home.
President Higgins said he was “very saddened” to learn of the death of his former Dáil colleague.
“I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife, Kathleen, and his three children Vincent, Helen and Sally.
“Shane McEntee made an enormous contribution to community and public life throughout his career in farming and agriculture, as a TD representing the people of Meath in Dáil Éireann and to the world of sport through his involvement with the GAA.
“He will be missed by his family and friends, colleagues in political life and by the wider community.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was “devastated” at McEntee’s sudden passing.
“Since his election to the Dail, Shane has been a dedicated servant of the people of Meath. As Minister of State, he brought great energy, diligence and enthusiasm to his role,” the Taoiseach said.
On a personal level Shane McEntee was a loyal friend and colleague and my thoughts and prayers go out to Kathleen and their family at this very sad time.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore extended his sympathies to McEntee’s family, and also to to the Taoiseach and the members of Fine Gael on the loss of their colleague.
“Shane was a passionate advocate for his Meath East constituents, particularly for the farming community,” Gilmore said.
“His good nature and warm personality will be sadly missed by his parliamentary colleagues from across the political divide.
Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan said he had learned of McEntee’s death “with extreme shock”.
“On behalf of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, I offer my deepest condolences to Shane’s wife, Kathleen and their family at this very difficult time,” Flanagan said.
“Shane was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He will be a huge loss to the Fine Gael family and to everyone who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace.”
The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, said he was “deeply shocked and deeply saddened” by the news of his colleague’s death.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at what must be an awful and difficult time.”
Fellow junior ministers
On Twitter, McEntee’s fellow junior minister Ciarán Cannon described him as a “wonderfully warm and kind person”, while Fergus O’Dowd – from nearby Louth – paid tribute to “a straight-talking and hard-working force on behalf of his constituents – an honest and decent gentleman.”
Fine Gael’s Alan Farrell described him as “a very fine parliamentarian and a very decent man”, while Paudie Coffey said he was “so saddened”. John Paul Phelan described him as “a big gentleman”.
Labour deputies Colm Keaveney and Aodhán Ó Riordáin, Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien, and Joan Collins of the United Left Alliance also expressed their sadness.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin expressed shock and sadness both “on a personal level and on behalf of the entire Fianna Fáil organisation”.
“He was a true gentleman who commanded the genuine affection and respect of people on all sides of the House,” Martin said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Shane’s family and with his colleagues in the Fine Gael party at this terrible time.
Fianna Fáil senator Thomas Byrne, who served alongside McEntee as a TD for Meath East in the last Dáil, said McEntee’s passing had “come as a huge shock”.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Shane’s family and friends as well as his Fine Gael colleagues in Meath and across the country,” Byrne said.
“We often worked together on local issues and while we may have been political opponents he was always very kind and generous with his time.
Shane’s contributions to politics, gaelic football and his community were immense. He was popular across party lines and he will be sorely missed.
Labour’s Dominic Hannigan, another Meath East deputy, said Shane had always been “a very honourable man” throughout the three elections they had fought against each other.
“I know he will be missed by all the people he has helped in his time in politics.”
Gerard Nash described “a warm, decent and hardworking man”, and said he was “honoured to have been elected to the Dáil and to be in a position to get to know him even better over the last two years.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said it was “with shock” that he learned of the news, saying: “My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.”
The Irish Farmers’ Association also expressed its sadness at news of McEntee’s death.
McEntee’s fellow Meathman, Peadar Toibín, said McEntee was “one of the most passionate politicians that I knew.
“He did not go through the motions. He was straight talking and you always knew where he stood on an issue. If he believed something he put every drop of energy he had into it.
“Shane was a tremendous advocate for the people of Meath most especially those from a rural and farming background. He was steeped in the culture of Fine Gael and the GAA. This is a devastating blow most especially to his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them over this extremely difficult Christmas period.
It is also devastating for his colleagues in Fine Gael who will be left shocked and numbed by his sudden loss. Meath has lost tireless campaigner today agus ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
SF’s agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris said McEntee was “a no-nonsense type of politician with a deep commitment to rural Ireland a love of the GAA”, while Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív said he had “great respect for Shane and he was always fair and friendly in his dealings with me”.
“He will be sadly missed.”
Its president John Bryan said the “farming community is shocked beyond belief”.
He described McEntee – himself a former farmer and agricultural salesman – as a “decent, hard-working public representative.”
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin said McEntee “had an acute understanding of the farming sector and worked hard during his tenure as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine”.