Taoiseach Enda Kenny has led tributes to popular novelist Maeve Binchy, who has died at the age of 72.
The best-selling author died peacefully in hospital yesterday with her husband, children’s writer Gordon Snell, by her side.
Binchy penned 16 novels and sold more than 40 million books worldwide during her career.
Mr Kenny said Ireland had lost a national treasure and offered his deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and the Irish people, to her family.
“Across Ireland and the world people are mourning and celebrating Maeve Binchy,” he said.
“She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished.
“Today, as a nation, we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy.”
President Michael D Higgins, said he was deeply saddened by Binchy’s death.
“She was an outstanding novelist, short story writer and columnist, who engaged millions of people all around the world with her fluent and accessible style,” he said.
“She was a great storyteller and we enjoyed her capacity to engage, entertain and surprise us.
“For others, particularly young and aspiring writers, she was not only a source of great encouragement, but also, to so many, of practical assistance.
“In recent years she showed great courage and thankfully never lost her self-deprecating humour, honesty and remarkable integrity as an artist and human being.”
Several of Binchy’s works were adapted for screen, including 'Circle Of Friends', 'The Lilac Bus' and 'Tara Road'.
Oscar-winning actress Brenda Fricker, who starred in a number of the productions, said of Binchy: “She was charming, intelligent, warm, generous in her time, with her effort, with her work.
“I just had the greatest of respect for her because she suffered badly from arthritis, and she had a lot of pain, and she never complained, you know.”
Popular Irish authors Cathy Kelly, Sheila O Flanagan and Dermot Bolger said it was a sad day and the loss of a friend.
“I feel like a golden light has gone out,” said Kelly. “She was so wonderful, warm and funny and an amazing writer.”
Born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, Binchy studied at University College Dublin before starting her career as a teacher.
She went on to become a journalist at the Irish Times. She moved to England, where she became London editor with the paper and met her husband.
The couple continued to live in Dalkey, a few hundred yards from the house where she grew up with her parents.
Binchey’s popular early collections of humorous short stories were based in London and Dublin but her first novel, 'Light A Penny Candle', became a best-seller when published in 1982 and the author, who was considered a true Irish storyteller, made Britain’s top 10 most popular writers and the New York Times’ Best-seller List.
Age Action said Binchy was a generous supporter of the older people’s charity.
“Maeve was always so willing to give Age Action her time, endorse our work and send the occasional encouraging message to staff,” said chief executive Robin Webster.
“Even in the latter years, when health challenges restricted her mobility, Maeve did photocalls and recorded radio advertisements for Age Action from her dining room table.
“To have somebody who is held in such high regard by society talk of ageing in such positive terms, with empathy and good humour, was so valuable.”
While Binchy officially announced her retirement in 2000, she continued writing.
Her last novel, 'Minding Frankie', was published in 2010 – the same year she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.
In a personal message on her website when 'Minding Frankie' was released in the US, she thanked fans who said they had enjoyed it.
“My health isn’t so good these days and I can’t travel around to meet people the way I used to. But I’m always delighted to hear from readers, even if it takes me a while to reply,” she wrote.