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Walsh hailed as tough, fearless rural champion

Ireland has lost an ordinary man capable of extraordinary things with the passing of former Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh, his funeral Mass heard.

Hundreds gathered to pay tribute to the veteran west Cork TD who, as his lifelong friend Donal O'Rourke told mourners, was "equally at home in the simple parish hall of an Irish village as he was in the gilded halls of Brussels".

He served with two former Taoisigh, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, both of whom attended the Requiem Mass.

Battle

Mr Walsh (71) died last Sunday after a brave battle against illness.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clonakilty was packed to capacity as locals joined with farmers, politicians, horse-racing officials, neighbours and family to honour a man hailed as "a cosmopolitan country gentleman".

Former Taoiseach Mr Ahern said Ireland owed Joe Walsh "a great debt of gratitude" such was his skill in handling the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) crisis in 2001.

Mr Cowen said that the west Corkman was "a great colleague, a loyal friend and a talented politician".

"But he was also tough and never afraid to fight for what he thought was right," he said.

Also present was Fianna Fáil leader, Micheal Martin, who served alongside Mr Walsh between 1997 and 2004.

The Mass was led by Mr Walsh's cousin, Fr Pat Walsh, who was assisted by the Bishop of Cork & Ross, Dr John Buckley, Monsignor Aidan O'Driscoll and Fr Edward Collins.

Mr Walsh's coffin was carried from his home in nearby Emmet Square by his three sons, Ronan, Killian and Brian assisted by his three surviving brothers, Donie, Chris and Finbarr.

Members of the Clonakilty Fianna Fáil Cumann provided a Guard of Honour as the coffin was led into the church.

The eulogy was delivered, at the request of the Walsh family, by Donal O'Rourke, who was one of Mr Walsh's closest confidants.

"He was absolutely devoted to his wife, Marie, and children, to the town of Clonakilty, to his native village (Ballineen/Ahiohill), to Cork and to Ireland," Mr O'Rourke said.

Integrity

"He was rooted in the values and integrity of rural Ireland."

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were represented by their Aides-de-Camp, Col Brendan McAndrew and Cmdt Ciaran Carey.

Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and former ministers John O'Donoghue, Charlie McCreevy, Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey, Michael Smith, Billy Kelleher and Jim O'Keeffe (FG) were also in attendance.

The mourners were led by Mr Walsh's wife, Marie, and children, Ronan, Denise, Killian, Brian and Kate.

hnews@herald.ie


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