An Irish priest has been killed during a violent robbery at his home in Kenya.

Father Jeremiah Roche, 68, from west Limerick worked in the St Patrick's parish in Kericho in North West Kenya.

It is understood he has brothers and sisters in Ireland and also family in Chicago.

Kenyan police have launched a murder inquiry.

Fr Roche lived alone in a house at the edge of the town and a staff member found his body shortly after the robbery which was believed to have taken place at about 4 a.m.

Colleague Fr Tom Kiggins said the death of Fr Roche was a great loss to the parish.

"He was a wonderful missionary and a great friend of mine," said Fr Kiggins. "He was very lively, full of fun and had great energy. He was always doing something and was very generous.

"Everything he did was for the mission, the people and the poor, anything he could to raise their living standards."

"He was broken into during the night and he was killed. He lived alone and he has been in Kenya since 1968. He spent all his time in the same area. He built a number of churches during his time and set up parishes in the area."

Fr Kiggins said had worked in the area himself and knew it well. Fr Roche had been a good friend of his and that he travelled back to Ireland every two or three years. He had just finished building a new church in his parish.

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said he was shocked and saddened at Fr Roche's death.

"He had dedicated his life to helping the poorest of the poor in Kenya since 1968," said Martin.

"His untimely death is yet another terrible reminder of the threats faced daily by our missionaries and aid workers all over the world."