President leads praise for 'true gentleman' who will be sorely missed
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has led tributes to former Junior Agriculture Minister Shane McEntee, who he said "made an enormous contribution" to public, farming and sporting life in Ireland.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "devastated" at the loss of his close friend and Fine Gael colleague, as tributes poured in from the political, farming and sporting communities.
Mr Higgins remembered Mr McEntee (56) as a colleague in Leinster House and said he would be "missed by his family and friends, colleagues in political life and by the wider community".
"I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife, Kathleen, and his three children Vincent, Helen and Sally," Mr Higgins said.
"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 Dail Eireann and to the world of sport through his involvement with the GAA."
Mr McEntee was heavily involved in the GAA in Meath, and coached the county minor football team, as well as playing for Nobber. His brother, Gerry McEntee, won two All-Ireland medals for Meath.
Mr Kenny said that since Mr McEntee's election to the Dail in a 2005 by-election, he "has been a dedicated servant of the people of Meath".
"As Minister of State, he brought great energy, diligence and enthusiasm to his role," Mr Kenny said. "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."
An emotional Health Minister James Reilly said Mr McEntee was "larger than life" and gave "100pc" to everything he did.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was shocked and saddened and Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett described Mr McEntee as a "close personal friend and parliamentary colleague".
"Shane was well respected, both inside and outside of the house, and his diligence to his constituents as well as his work, in the Department of Agriculture, which he loved, was recognised by all who met him," Mr Barrett said.
Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan said Mr McEntee "was a true gentleman in every sense of the word".
MEP Mairead McGuinness called Mr McEntee "a valued friend with a very big heart".
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore also expressed his sympathy to Mr McEntee's family, and "to the Taoiseach and the members of Fine Gael on the loss of their colleague".
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin called Mr McEntee "a true gentleman who commanded the genuine affection and respect of people on all sides of the house".
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also said he was shocked, and offered his condolences to the McEntee family.
John Bryan, the president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), said Mr McEntee had "worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and the farming community to find solutions".
"Shane and his father Tony before him were hugely committed to IFA's work," Mr Bryan added.
A statement from the Meath County Board said Mr McEntee had been "a lifelong member of the GAA and gave outstanding service as a player, coach and supporter". It expressed condolences to his family "on behalf of gaels throughout the county".
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association and Irish Organic Farmers and Growers' Association also expressed their condolences.