The Arts Council described him as an iconic figure in Irish letters.
Arts Council chairwoman Sheila Pratschke said he was a rare example of the public intellectual in Irish life who was “committed, fearless, rigorous in his thought, and unashamedly forthright in his advocacy of what he thought right and good”.
“He believed in a Republic worthy of the Irish people, and was unstinting in his contributions to the public life of a country that often infuriated him but never lost either his love or his allegiance.”
His friend and fellow Aosdána member, poet Theo Dorgan, hailed him as a great friend to poetry, to artists of all disciplines, and to the Republic.
“He understood the reason we all want our children to get a good education — so they can learn to think, so that we can build a society based on thinking, and real values,” said Mr Dorgan.
“He didn’t see the intellectual as somebody corralled away off from life. He had his feet very firmly on the ground. He said we live in a fixed and finite world, we walk concrete streets and poetry should speak to those truths, and his poetry did.”
Born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, in 1928, Mr Cronin was a noted poet and critic while still a student in UCD.
His works included 14 volumes of poetry, biographies of Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett, the novels The Life of Riley and Identity Papers, a number of books of essays, and the classic memoir of literary Dublin in the mid-20th century, Dead As Doornails.
He was cultural and artistic adviser to former taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and played a key role in the establishment of Aosdána, an independent affiliation of artists.
He is survived by his wife, writer Anne Haverty, and daughter Sarah.