'He was a man of his people, of his place, of his party'
Tributes flood in to a minister who made an 'enormous contribution', write Ronald Quinlan and Daniel McConnell
President Michael D Higgins said Shane McEntee had "made an enormous contribution to community and public life" in the fields of politics, agriculture and sport.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "devastated" at the death of a "loyal friend".
He added: "Shane McEntee was a dedicated servant of the people of Meath who had brought great energy and diligence to his ministerial role."
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said Mr McEntee's "good nature and warm personality" would be sadly missed. Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly fought back tears as he described Mr McEntee as a "larger-than-life individual" who gave 100 per cent.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin described Mr McEntee as "a true gentleman who commanded the genuine affection and respect of people on all sides of the House".
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said his thoughts were with Mr McEntee's family and friends.
Mr Adams said: "It was with shock that I learned the sad news today of the passing of Shane McEntee.
"My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this sad time," he said.
Former Taoiseach John Bruton said Mr McEntee's election in 2005 represented the revival of Fine Gael and that he brought passion to politics.
"It wasn't just work for him. He would call to people in their own homes to try to fully understand the problem that was on their mind."
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said: "The news yesterday of Shane's death has shocked and numbed us all in Fine Gael and in the Department of Agriculture.
"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 understood farmers and rural people in a way that I can only aspire to. Farmers loved Shane for his blunt and practical approach to solving problems. 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. Shane was such a family man, his wife Kathleen and his children meant everything to him. They will miss him so much and our thoughts and prayers this Christmas and for a long time after will be with them all."
Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State at the Department of Health, expressed her deep sorrow at the death of her friend and colleague.
She said: "Shane McEntee was so well known and respected as a sincere, hard worker dedicated to serving not only his constituents but all the people of Ireland and in particular the youth of this country. He was an outstanding man and politician in whom we are all justifiably proud. He will be sadly missed but not forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis."
Fine Gael TDs for Meath West and Meath East, Regina Doherty, Ray Butler and Damien English, also paid tribute.
Ms Doherty said: "I am absolutely devastated at the passing of Shane, who was not just a colleague but a loyal and caring friend. Shane was a man of his people, a man of his place, a man of his party.
"And he exemplified everything that is good about family, friendship and loyalty to the State.
"He was a wonderful person and I hope his family and friends can take some comfort in knowing how much he will be missed by everybody who knew him."
Mr Butler said: "Shane was one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever had the privilege to know and call a friend.
"He took me under his wing when I was elected to the Dail and anytime I had any problems, he was always there for me. He was a great family man and a brilliant politician who had so much time for his constituents, as well as being a wonderful friend to everyone who knew him. Although he has gone now, all of these qualities will live with me and everyone who knew him and was touched by him. This living memory of Shane will, I pray, see us all through this terrible tragedy."
Mr English said: "Shane was a truly unique person and colleague. Whether it was family, politics, football or parish, Shane McEntee was a committed and passionate man. Everyone who knew him through these circles was extremely fond of him and knew just how genuine and true he was.
"Shane came into politics for all the right reasons and genuinely wanted to improve things locally and for his beloved country.
"Above all, Shane loved his family and regularly talked about them amongst myself and his colleagues."
Labour's Ged Nash TD said: "I am deeply saddened and upset at the passing of my friend and colleague, Shane McEntee TD. I first met Shane during the Meath by-election in 2005. Since then we developed a good friendship and I had enormous respect for him. He was a warm, decent and hard-working man who was immensely proud of representing the people of Meath East. I was honoured to have been elected to the Dail and to be in a position to get to know him even better. He was a gentleman to the core and he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.
"I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the McEntee family at this extremely difficult time."
Labour Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan said: "Shane and I ran in three elections together and he was always a very honourable man during the election contest.
"He was extremely well liked in Meath and worked very hard for his constituents. I know he will be missed by all the people he has helped in his time in politics. "
Labour Senator Mary Moran said: "I am shocked to hear the news of Shane's passing and would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Kathleen, children Vincent, Helen and Sally, and family circle at this sad time. Shane was a true gentleman and was extremely supportive of me when I entered the Seanad last year. He was an extremely hard working man and will be greatly missed by all who knew him."