The government has confirmed that Ireland’s Minister for State Shane McEntee has died suddenly. The County Meath East representative at the Department of Agriculture, with the responsibility for food, horticulture and food safety, died just two days after his 56th birthday.

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The Department of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny released a statement. It reads: “The Government regrets to announce the sudden death of Minister of State, Shane McEntee TD.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Shane's family and friends at this deeply sad time."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, “Since his election to the Dail, Shane has been a dedicated servant of the people of Meath. As Minister of State, he brought great energy, diligence and enthusiasm to his role.

"On a personal level Shane McEntee was a loyal friend and colleague and my thoughts and prayers go out to Kathleen and their family at this very sad time."

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Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he is shocked and deeply saddened by the death of McEntee. He said his thoughts and prayers are with Minister's wife and family.

The Irish Farmer's Association also paid tribute to McEntee. President John Bryan told he is "shocked beyond belief."

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheal Martin extended his sympathies to Mr McEntee’s family, friends and Fine Gael colleagues. He called the Fine Gael TD a "true gentleman" who "commanded the genuine affection and respect of people on all sides of the House."

McEntee is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and their three children.

He was first elected to Irish Government in 2005, to replace the former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton on his appointment as Ambassador to the United States. He was reelected in 2007 and 2011 in Meath East and appointed Minister of State with responsibility for food, food safety and horticulture.

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McEntee was born in Nobber, County Meath, and lived in Castletown Kilpatrick.

Before he began his life in politics he was a farmer, an agriculture sales rep, and ran a pub. He was involved in several voluntary community organizations, particularly the GAA. He trained a number of gaelic football teams including the Meath Minors and had success at county level on six occasions.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with colleague and friend Junior Minister for State Shane McEnteeIrish Times