The late Larry Sheedy speaking on the video to mark 60 years of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland this summer.

Commissioner leads tributes to pioneering agri-journalist

OBITUARY: Larry Sheedy, Dunboyne and Ballsbridge

European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness has led tributes to the retired agricultural journalist and public relations specialist, Larry Sheedy of Dunboyne and Ballsbridge, Dublin, who died last weekend in his 90th year.

Mr Sheedy was best known for his involvement with the Irish Farmers Journal over many decades, and as a founder member 60 years ago of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland.

In July, Larry took part in a video to mark the 60th anniversary of the guild, which was shown at the organisation's annual meeting, along with Ms McGuinness, a former agricultural journalist and TV presenter.

Founders of the all-island body with him included Paddy O’Keeffe of the Farmers Journal, RTE’s Michael Dillon, and Con Murphy, editor of a magazine for the Irish Beet Growers Association, and they travelled to Dundalk to meet a contingent from Northern Ireland in 1961.

Larry Sheedy pursued a long and full career as a journalist and public relations consultant. Joining the Irish Farmers Journal at a very early stage in that career, he stayed for 21 years, becoming deputy editor. He also worked in radio and in the early development of RTE television.

On the day that Ireland joined the EEC, he moved to the discipline of public relations, and carved out a 25 year career at the highest level that Ireland had to offer in that growing and thriving business.

Born on a Co Dublin dairy farm, he lived in the suburbs through the early years of marriage to Annette O’Rourke, but decided to move to village and country life in the mid-sixties. His friend, the National Farmers Association figure, Joseph Bruton, found him a few affordable acres in Dunboyne and he lived there for 25 years.

They worked together on a number of local development projects and maintained a warm friendship. In 1998, the Agricultural Trust published his memoir of Joe Bruton’s life and times, ‘Milestones and Memories’.

Other works he published included ‘From Father to Son’, That’s Another Story’, The Law of the Land’, and histories of the National Ploughing Championships, and Inch and Gaultier co-ops.

It was Larry Sheedy who started the ‘Lonely Hearts’ column in the Farmers Journal in the 1960s, as he recognised the loneliness and isolation in many parts of rural Ireland and suggested the column would provide a way for people to get together.

Former Taoiseach and son of Joe Bruton, John Bruton, described Larry Sheedy as a distinguished journalist who was a formative influence in the Farmers Journal.

"He recruited other writers for the paper, notably the poet Patrick Kavanagh. He was deeply committed to the cause of farmers. He lived in Dunboyne for many years and was very popular locally. He became a close friend of my family, notably of my late father, Joe, with whom he shared many interests."

Mairead McGuinness, the European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, said it was with It was with great sadness that she learned of the death of Larry Sheedy, "a man who gave so much to agriculture journalism and in turn to farming and the food industry".

She said she recently watched Larry’s last video presentation, recorded to mark 60 years of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, which he helped establish in 1961.

"For that work alone, I and many journalists will be forever grateful as it provided the inexperienced with access to those with experience and to meet with key industry stakeholders in regular guild meetings - it was an education in itself," she said.

"I was lucky to meet Larry though the guild. His distinctive voice, relaxed manner and great story telling abilities were obvious then, as they were to audiences of RTE’s earliest farming programmes. Larry was an accomplished broadcaster, writer and PR professional."

She said his work spanned from the 1960s in agricultural programmes through to the 1990s, contributing to RTE Radio's 'Sunday Miscellany'.

He represented Ireland on the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), going on to become the first Irish person to be elected World President. He also set up one of the first PR companies specifically for the agriculture sector.

"Larry loved a good sing-song and was often the life and soul of the party. His wife Annette was always by his side," Ms McGuinness added.

She concluded: "Larry Sheedy touched many lives, told and re-told many stories and contributed to shaping the agriculture that emerged following Ireland’s entry to the then EEC, now the EU. May he rest in peace."

Larry and Annette were tempted to move again to the convenience of Ballsbridge to live a busy retirement. He died peacefully on Saturday at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin.

Predeceased by his brothers and sisters, Larry is survived by Annette; their family, Fin, Niall, Tina and Orla; son-in-law Peter; daughters-in-law, Helen and Sumiko; grandchildren, Laurence, Carla, Jonathan, Daniel, Áine, Johnny, Dáire and Aislinn; great-grandchildren, Annie, Con and Fiadh Rós; nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.

A funeral Mass took place on Wednesday at St Mary’s Church, Haddington Road, at 10am, followed by a cremation service at the Garden Chapel, Mount Jerome Crematorium.