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Sean Mac Connell - Journalist and singer whose heart was in the country

Retired journalist Sean Mac Connell, who has died aged 66, was an award-winning agriculture correspondent for the Irish Times for 25 years.

Sean, a native of Bellanaleck, Co Fermanagh, was also a well-known folk singer who performed with his brothers – Cormac, Cathal and Mickey.

"We were known as the Mac Connell Brothers in the same era as the Clancy Brothers," says Cathal.

"Sean was a poet and a songwriter, too. He was a lovely man.

"We were all into writing, but he was the best of us. He adored the ballad, The Leitrim Lady, and we always had to sing it everywhere.

"We all learned to sing, inspired by our late Dad, Sandy, who owned a grocer's shop with our late Mum, Mary. Father was an accomplished singer and a flute and accordion player, too. Our sister, Maura, died several years ago."

Former Irish Times deputy editor, Dennis Kennedy, remembers Sean as an assertive journalist, with an eye for a good story.

He is survived by his wife Pat, daughters Siobhan and Kate, son Eoghan and his brothers.

Sean launched his journalistic career on the Roscommon Champion in 1967 and came to the Irish Times via the Free Press Wexford and the Irish Press in Dublin.

Current Irish Times editor, Kevin O'Sullivan, said: "He was an outstanding journalist of his generation.

"His contacts and understanding of the farming sector were critical factors in his winning a Journalist of the Year Award in 2011 for his coverage of the foot-and-mouth crisis."

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, of which Sean was a life member, said: "He was a force of nature – a passionate journalist with a huge commitment to social justice.

John Bryan, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, said Sean had made an outstanding contribution to the reporting of agriculture in Ireland.

"He had an empathy for rural people and loved the countryside. He was a storyteller and a singer."

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