Tributes paid to ‘colossus of Cork politics’ Joe Walsh

Cross-party tributes were paid to former minister for agriculture Joe Walsh by members of Cork County Council yesterday before they adjourned their meeting as a mark of respect to the "colossus of Cork politics" who left a huge legacy locally.

Tributes paid to ‘colossus of Cork politics’ Joe Walsh

The secretary general and staff of the Department of Agriculture also expressed their deep condolences, describing Mr Walsh as “calm and reassuring in times of crisis”.

The Board of Horse Racing Ireland said the former minister had been “deeply committed to the development of the Irish racing and breeding sector”. He was chairman of Cork Racecourse and today’s meeting in Galway was adjourned as a mark of respect.

Prior to becoming a minister Mr Walsh had served in the Oireachtas and Cork County Council at the same time. Tributes yesterday were led by Fianna Fáil councillor Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony, who for many years was a close friend of the 71-year-old and his family.

She recalled her late brother circuit court judge Con Murphy was Mr Walsh’s director of elections and both she and him worked very closely with the former minister on many projects.

In particular, she said Joe Walsh, who was born in Enniskeane, would not only be remembered for his handling of the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, but also as somebody who “worked tirelessly” for the people of the Cork South-West constituency.

Fianna Fáil councillor Christopher O’Sullivan said Mr Walsh’s influence made Clonakilty a prosperous place by helping to create and promote the technology park which employs nearly 1,000 people, the model railway village and the agricultural college at Darrara.

Councillor Frank O’Flynn said the ex-minister had gained a huge amount of agricultural expertise while working in Moorepark in the 1970s and had later helped to revamp the racecourse in Mallow and create a flagship greyhound stadium in Cork.

Mr Walsh was elected to the county council in 1977 before moving onto the Oireachtas in 1981, before retiring from politics seven years ago.

Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty and Independent Noel Collins, who both served on the council with him, described Walsh as “an absolute gentleman.”

Mr Collins said he had “always delivered the goods,” while Mr Hegarty said Mr Walsh was a great lover of greyhound racing and horse racing and had done a huge amount for both industries.

“I was deeply shocked to hear he had died. He was a friend of all ours,” Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy added.

The mayor of Co Cork, Alan Coleman, wound up the eulogies when he described Mr Walsh as “a colossus of Cork politics”.

“He was also a great player for Ireland on the bigger stage. His grasp of agriculture and food was unmatched in Europe in his time and the food industry is much stronger as a result of what he did for it.

“But he never left the high office he held go to his head,” Mr Coleman said.

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