Tributes to ‘outstanding journalist’ Seán Mac Connell

Award-winning ‘Irish Times’ journalist had career spanning more than 44 years


Politicians, farming figures and former media colleagues have paid warm tributes to former Irish Times agriculture correspondent Seán Mac Connell, who died yesterday morning. He was 66.

Originally from Bellanaleck, near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, he retired from The Irish Times in January 2012 after a journalism career that spanned more than 44 years.

He won several awards for his work, including a National Media Award in 2001 for his coverage of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

He is survived by his wife, Pat, daughters Siobhán and Kate, son Eoghan – who is also a journalist – and grandchildren.

His brothers Mickey, Cathal and Cormac are well known in traditional music circles.

Mac Connell began his journalistic career in the Roscommon Champion newspaper in 1967 before moving to the Roscommon Herald, and then the Free Press Wexford. He joined the Irish Press in 1970.

He moved to The Irish Times in 1986 as a senior reporter, and became agriculture correspondent in 1989. He became midlands correspondent in 1997 and returned to the newsroom in Dublin in 2001. Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan said it was with great sadness that he and his colleagues had learned of Mac Connell’s death. Describing him as “an outstanding journalist of his generation”, he said Mac Connell was known in every corner of Ireland.

“He was unique in many ways; a man of the land who had a deep understanding of the physical landscape and its close association with our collective culture and history – which was reflected in much of his journalism.”

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said Mac Connell was “one of the best agri-journalists” that his department had worked with. “He gave very straight and honest coverage of an industry that was growing in the midst of recession but also asked the hard questions of me when it was appropriate.”

He said Mac Connell had left “a lasting legacy in agriculture because of the way he covered agriculture and because of the character he was. He was hugely popular.”

Speaking at the launch of this year’s National Ploughing Championships Anna May McHugh, National Ploughing Association managing director, held a moment’s silence for the journalist. “We will all miss Seán. He was a great colleague and a great friend.”

Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan said: “Seán made an outstanding contribution to the reporting of agriculture in Ireland for over 20 years. He had a great empathy for rural people and loved the countryside.”

Mac Connell’s trade union activity and interest in social justice were highlighted by Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley. “Seán loved a good argument and was a dogged, determined negotiator,” Mr Dooley said.
l Removal tomorrow to the Church of the Divine Word, Marley Grange, Dublin, for 11am Mass. Funeral immediately afterwards to Mount Jerome Crematorium.