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Tributes as ‘inspirational’ former editor dies

Tributes have poured in for Paddy O’Keeffe, chairman of the Agriculture Trust and former Irish Farmers Journal editor, who died peacefully at his home in Ballyhooley, Co Cork.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, along with the Irish Farmers Journal, the IFA, ICMSA, Teagasc, and other leaders in the agri-food sector, have expressed sympathy to his wife Jane, and children Margaret, Elizabeth, Josephine, and Patrick. Mr O’Keeffe, who died on Sunday, was predeceased by his first wife of 60 years, Anne, in 2011.

Mr O’Keeffe, aged 89, was chairman of the Agriculture Trust, publishers of the Irish Farmers Journal and The Irish Field. When Mr O’Keeffe became editor in 1951, the Journal’s circulation stood at around 2,000 copies. He oversaw its rise to 70,000 copies per week. He retired as editor in 1988 and remained as CEO until 1993.

Irish Farmers Journal editor Matt Dempsey said: "Paddy maintained his vitality and intense interest in life up to the very end. His weekly article appeared in last week’s Farmers Journal and he chaired our board meeting last Monday.

"His rigorous capacity for analysis and follow-on action were unique and resulted in the re-establishment and development of the Irish Farmers Journal, the foundation of FBD and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation. He was an inspiration, a mentor and friend."

As well as chairing the Agricultural Institute, he was chairman of FBD until 1996 and also served on the boards of the RTÉ Authority and Bord na gCapall.

Teagasc director Gerry Boyle said: "Paddy has made an enormous contribution to Irish agriculture, as a farmer, as a journalist and editor, in agribusiness and as an advocate of applying science in agriculture and farming particularly in grassland management and animal breeding.

"He retained an enthusiasm for research and a quest for greater knowledge right from his time as chairman of the An Foras Taluntais [predecessor to Teagasc; 1973-1979] until recent days."

In December, Teagasc said a new facility at Moorepark will be known as the Paddy O’Keeffe Innovation Centre.

IFA president John Bryan said Mr O’Keeffe had made an immense contribution to the development of efficient, grass-based agriculture in Ireland.

ICMSA president John Comer said Mr O’Keeffe’s legacy of unstinting effort was one that current farm leaders must continue to work towards and emulate.

Mr O’Keeffe’s neighbour, North Cork IFA president Richard Quirke, said: "He was always a man ahead of his time. He placed great emphasis on science and research on his own farm. He is a tremendous loss to the farming community."

Damien O’Reilly, RTÉ radio presenter and chairman of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, said Mr O’Keeffe’s lifelong interest and involvement in journalism was greatly appreciated.