PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has led tributes to the late Fianna Fail Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh, who has died following a short illness.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and current Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney were also among those paying tribute, highlighting Mr Walsh's leadership during the foot and mouth crisis of 2001.
"I have learned with great sadness of the death of former minister Joe Walsh. I served in the Cabinet with Joe during one of his three terms as Minister for Agriculture and I was a colleague with him in the Dail, where he represented the people of West Cork for so many years," Mr Higgins said.
"Joe Walsh had a rich political career and he achieved much, particularly in the area of agriculture, which was his great passion and where his leadership and expertise were recognised at a European level.
"I would like to extend my sympathy to his wife Marie and children Ronan, Denise, Killian, Brian and Kate."
Mr Walsh (71) died in Cork University Hospital yesterday.
He was first elected to the Dail for Cork South West in the Jack Lynch-inspired FF landslide election of 1977. He served as junior minister in the Department of Agriculture from 1987 to 1992.
He was promoted to Agriculture Minister in February 1992 and served until the collapse of then-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds' coalition in December 1994.
Mr Walsh returned to the post in 1997 in then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's first administration and served until he retired from the post in 2004, later serving as a backbench TD for three years.
After his retirement from national politics, Mr Walsh was one of those chosen to serve as a public interest bank director, serving as a non-executive director with the Bank of Ireland from 2009. The Taoiseach described him as a "dedicated representative of the people of Cork South West and a hard-working and committed minister".
Mr Martin said he was a tremendous colleague and hugely talented politician.
"Joe was a man of vision who had a profound impact on the development of Irish agriculture and food over a number of decades," he said.
"He devoted his entire life to public service and did so with immense skill and integrity.
"His particular interest and expertise in agriculture and food saw him entrusted with responsibility in the area by three Taoisigh.
"Joe's leadership during the foot and mouth crisis was recognised internationally, with the French government honouring him with the Legion d'Honneur and the King of Spain presenting him with the Grand Cross of the Agricultural Order of Merit for his service to agriculture.
"However, despite the international recognition, I know from talking to him that in his own mind few honours could match his induction into the West Cork Hall of Fame in 1992."