Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD has spoken of his sadness following the untimely death of his friend and former colleague Joe Walsh.
Deputy Martin commented, “The news of Joe’s death has come as a shock to me and his many friends and admirers across the country.
“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 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. His political leadership of the agriculture sector in this country over many years helped transform the sector into the economic keystone that it has become for our country today and the positive effects of his reforms will be felt for generations to come. He was the Minister who above anybody else brought the development of the food industry centre stage in economic policy.
“Joe was Ireland’s key negotiator during the 1992 and 2003 CAP reforms, he established Bord Bia and facilitated a transformation in the marketing and export strategy for Ireland’s food industry.
“Indeed, his brilliant leadership in responding the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis was instrumental in mitigating a disaster that had the potential to wipe out a way of life.
“Joe was a keen supported and strong advocate of the bloodstock industry. He recognised the economic importance and the personal enjoyment that would come with both the racing and greyhound industry.
“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.
“Over the course of thirty years in Oireachtas Éireann, Joe Walsh proved to be an outstanding parliamentarian of vision and service. He was a passionate advocate for his community in Clonakilty and his beloved west Cork, and he had a deep commitment to developing sustainable rural life across our country. He was also a good and loyal friend.
“On my own, my family’s and the entire Fianna Fáil organisation’s behalf, I offer my sympathy and prayers to Joe’s wife Marie, his children Ronan, Denise, Killian, Brian and Kate, and to his entire family circle.
“Ar dheis De go raibh a Anam.”