The farming community was shocked to hear of the sudden passing of former Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Padraig Walshe on Wednesday.
A pioneering dairy farmer from Durrow, Co Laois, Walshe was active in farm politics and business for close to four decades.
He was president of Macra na Feirme from 1987 to 1989 and later served as leader of the IFA from 2006 to 2010.
He was the first Irish president of the European farmers’ group COPA, having previously served in the upper echelons of its young-farmer equivalent, CEJA.
In recent years, Walshe served as chair of Farmer Business Developments plc.
He is survived by his wife Ella, three daughters Julieanne, Elma and Catherine, and son Pat.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said the farming community was in shock at the news that Padraig Walshe had died suddenly.
“This is devastating news for his family. On behalf of the farming community, I want to extend our condolences to his family and friends.
“This is a huge loss for them and it’s a very difficult time,” he said.
He said Padraig Walshe was a passionate advocate for the development of the farming sector and always insisted that science was the way forward.
Through many campaigns at home and abroad, he was fearless in defending farmers, Cullinan said.
“Padraig Walshe leaves a strong legacy of leadership of farmers, from his time as president of Macra na Feirme, to president of the IFA and also as the first Irish leader to head up the European group of farmers COPA.”
Cullinan said Padraig Walshe served farmers with distinction in a career that stretches back to 1987 when he was elected president of Macra na Feirme.
He subsequently served as chair of the IFA dairy committee and as IFA national treasurer.
In 2006, he became the 12th president of the IFA and in 2009, he had the honour of being elected by farm leaders from across Europe as president of COPA.
Padraig Walshe chaired Farmer Business Developments following his roles in the IFA and he continued as a director of FBD until his untimely passing.
Nuffield Ireland tribute: 'an exceptional leader'
Nuffield Ireland chair Joe Leonard described Walshe as an esteemed colleague and an exceptional leader for his fellow farmers.
The Laois man was one of the first Nuffield Ireland scholars and had many friends in the Irish and international organisation.
“Over the years, as president of Macra na Feirme, of the Irish Farmers’ Association, of European farmers’ organisation COPA and as chairperson of Farmer Business Development, he has worked tirelessly for the betterment of farmers and agriculture," Leonard said.
"He has truly embodied the Nuffield values of leadership, reciprocity and continuous learning, and been a solid supporter and promoter of the organisation. Ever generous with his time and experience, he encouraged many scholars to be forthright and robust in our research and continuously challenging to the Irish agri sector.”
'Always an advocate of good farming' - Teagasc
Chair of the Teagasc Authority Liam Herlihy said it was with great sadness that the authority, management and staff learned of the untimely passing of Padraig Walshe.
Walshe was a former member of the first Teagasc Authority, when he served as a board member from September 1988 to August 1993.
"Padraig was always an advocate, and an example, of good farming based on solid research and the best science," said Herlihy.
"His close association with Teagasc, and his support for science-based farming, continued as he served on the Teagasc dairy stakeholder group and as the chair of the Grass10 steering group.
"His support for Teagasc research, advice and education was greatly appreciated. He made a great contribution to Irish agriculture over many years and was an outstanding leader of the farming sector."