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President Higgins leads tributes in Ireland following death of Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan has died at the age of 65 (Ben Curtis/PA)
Shane MacGowan has died at the age of 65 (Ben Curtis/PA)

Ireland’s president Michael D Higgins has led tributes following the death of Shane MacGowan, describing him as one of “music’s greatest lyricists”.

The former Pogues frontman died aged 65 with his wife and family by his side, a statement from his family said.

He was best known for hit festive song Fairytale Of New York.

Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar said MacGowan’s songs beautifully captured the experience of being Irish abroad.

Mr Higgins, who presented a lifetime achievement award to MacGowan in 2018, said he learned of the singer’s death with the “greatest sadness”.

He added: “Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists.

“So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them.

“The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams – of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from.

“His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways.”

Sinead O’Connor death
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who had duetted with Shane MacGowan, died in July (PA)

The Irish president said there was a “particular poignancy” that the death of Shane MacGowan had followed closely that of Sinead O’Connor in July.

The two singers had duetted on the song Haunted.

Mr Higgins said: “Born on Christmas Day, there was perhaps some form of destiny which led Shane to writing Fairytale Of New York, the timeless quality of which will surely mean that it will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more.

“Likewise songs like Rainy Night In Soho, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, If I Should Fall From Grace With God and so many others will live on far into the years and decades to come.

“I think too of Haunted, and the particular poignancy that both Shane and Sinead O’Connor have left us in such quick succession.”

He added: “It was a great honour for me, as President of Ireland, to present Shane with a lifetime achievement award in the National Concert Hall in January 2018 as we marked his 60th birthday. A richly deserved honour.”

Mr Varadkar expressed his condolences to the MacGowan family.

“He was an amazing musician and artist,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

“His songs beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad.”

Global Ireland Summit
Tanaiste Micheal Martin said he was devastated by the death of Shane MacGowan (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said he was devastated by the death.

In a social media post, Mr Martin said: “Devastated by the passing of Shane MacGowan.

“An iconic musician talented in many genres, particularly influenced by his time in Tipperary.

“His passing is particularly poignant at this time of year as we listen to Fairytale Of New York – a song that resonates with all of us.”

Mr Martin added: “My deepest sympathies to his wife Victoria Mary and all the MacGowan family.”

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald described MacGowan as “a poet” who was unique in how he told “the Irish story”.

She said that Ireland “has lost one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”.

“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice. He was a dedicated Republican and a proud Irishman.

“Nobody told the Irish story like Shane – stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.

“Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

“Today we mourn his passing. He was one of the best of us.”