Meath man whose loyalty to his community matched that to Fine Gael and the GAA
“A Meath man through and through” was how Minister of State Shane McEntee once described himself.
And his loyalty to his county and community was matched only by his commitment to Fine Gael and the GAA.
The Minister of State, who turned 56 on Wednesday, was steeped in the party of which his parents had been long-time members.
As his family, friends and colleagues reacted with shock to the news of his tragic death, they spoke of the “warm, gregarious, caring and soft” character who was “straight up”.
Known to speak his mind freely, he had little difficulty adjusting to life in Leinster House and robust Dáil exchanges despite never having trodden the traditional path of local council politics.
He grew up in Nobber, the third-eldest of seven brothers and one sister, leaving school at 15 to work full-time on the family farm. He began renting land from his father, Tony, who was heavily involved with the IFA. Initially involved in mixed farming, he then moved to dairy.
With the economic downturn he moved to part-time farming while working as an agricultural sales representative. When he sold his milk quota 10 years ago, he and his wife, Kathleen Corbally, bought a pub in Nobber, called “Dee Local”, a play on north Meath pronunciation and the nearby river Dee.
A restaurant, “Dee Works”, followed. He later said: “It was pure Angus beef and a great lesson in food safety.”
Mr McEntee won the 2005 byelection after former taoiseach John Bruton stepped down, and soon afterwards he sold the business. Re-elected in 2007, he was appointed deputy spokesman for transport before becoming deputy agriculture spokesman.
Loyal to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, he made an impassioned speech on his behalf to the parliamentary party when the then Opposition leader faced a leadership battle.
His appointment as Minister of State for Agriculture was seen as his reward, a job he received just a week before his father died last year.
Known for his colourful and outspoken comments as Minister of State with responsibility for food safety, he told supermarkets to “stop screwing the farmers who supply your food”.
More recently, in the wake of the budget and cuts to the respite grant, he was quoted as saying that “you could stay in a top hotel for €700 a week” and “people just have to get on with it”, remarks that provoked strong public reaction.
His last contribution to the Dáil, earlier this week, was on forestry, which had been a major part of his recent workload, enforcing measures to deal with the disease in ash trees.
Throughout his career in politics and agriculture he was heavily involved with the GAA, training numerous local football clubs including winning Meath minor teams and, most recently, Moynalty. His own football career ended when he broke a leg.
He is survived by his wife Kathleen, son Vincent, daughters Helen, Aoife and Sally, his mother Madge, his sister Mary and his brothers Alan, Gerard, Shane, Larry, Jimmy, Tony and Andrew.