THE Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has paid tribute to his "big-hearted" colleague Shane McEntee.
His popularity crossed the political divide, he took the problems of others to heart and his death has left his friends devastated, Mr Coveney added.
Mr McEntee, minister of state at the Department of Agriculture and Food, died suddently yesterday aged 56.
Mr Coveney said: "Shane was one of the most honest and big-hearted people I have ever had the privilege to know.
"His popularity crossed the political divide, everybody loved Shane. We are all just devastated at his untimely death.
"He was such a fantastic support within the Department of Agriculture - talented, down to earth and loyal to the core whenever I needed him."
He said his minister understood farmers and rural people in a way that he could only aspire to.
"Farmers loved Shane for his blunt and practical approach to solving problems," he said.
He was a people person who really took the problems of others to his heart and advocated passionately for the values he believed in and the people he represented."
The funeral of Mr McEntee, who died yesterday, will take place in Co Meath on Monday.
His remains will be removed tomorrow evening to St Patrick's Church in Castletown.
The Meath East TD will be buried in Nobber cemetery following a funeral mass at 11am on Monday morning.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid tribute to Mr McEntee yesterday, describing him as a loyal friend and a dedicated servant of the people of Meath.
Mr McEntee was first elected to the Dáil in a by-election in 2005 and retained his seat in 2007 and 2011.
He was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, with responsibility for Food, Food Safety and Horticulture in 2011.