World-renowned writer Maeve Binchy has been remembered as a remarkable storyteller who could “touch people’s hearts and souls”. The best-selling Irish author has died aged 72 after a short illness.
Not only did her beautifully written books entertain millions of bookworms across the globe, but the former journalist and teacher also recognised the importance of integrated education in Northern Ireland.
The Dublin-born writer was regarded by many in Ireland as one of the best-loved writers of her generation.
She sold more than 40m books worldwide and some of her work was adapted for the silver screen, including Tara Road and Circle Of Friends. Her last published book, Minding Frankie, was published in 2010.
Over the last decade Ms Binchy had been a campaigner and fundraiser for the Belfast-based Integrated Education Fund (IEF), first endorsing its goals by writing an article drawing on her own experiences as a teacher.
She provided many autographed books for auction and even opened up her home in Dublin for events.
Figures from the world of politics, the arts and journalism paid tribute.
Irish President Michael D Higgins described her as “an outstanding novelist, short story writer and columnist”.
Writer Cathy Kelly said the world had lost a “golden light”.
She added: “Maeve Binchy was one of the few writers who could touch people’s hearts and souls as well as their minds.
“You’d read a Maeve book and when you’d finished, you somehow felt as if the world was a better place.
“She had a PhD in human behaviour, but when she wrote she wrote about people and all their failings with such kindness.”
Baroness May Blood, chair of the IEF, told the Belfast Telegraph she was devastated to learn of Maeve’s death on Monday and explained the award-winning novelist would keep in regular contact about education developments in Ulster.
“I’ve lost a real friend,” Baroness Blood said. “We first met at an event in Dublin 10 years ago and she didn’t fully understand what the Integrated Education Fund was all about, so we explained it and she came on board.
“Maeve was great fun. She didn’t see division. To her, people were people. She saw the value of integrated education.”
Ms Binchy was a life member of the Dublin branch of the National Union of Journalists.
Gerry Curran, of the Irish Executive Council, said the NUJ would be forever grateful for the loyalty and support the writer showed its members.
Novelist and Man Booker prize winner Anne Enright said she had an “unsurpassed grasp of what makes a good story”.
“Reading Maeve was like being with a good friend.
“Wise, generous, funny and full-hearted, she was the best of good company on the page and off it.”
Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said: “Maeve was a woman of rare charm, warmth and generosity of spirit.
“Hundreds of journalists have reason to be grateful for her guidance and encouragement. She was always available to young writers and at heart remained a teacher.
“Maeve loved people and her unique insight into human nature shone through her journalism and later her novels.
“She will be missed for her sense of fun, her humour and for the grace and style which were her hallmark.”
Born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, Maeve Binchy has sold more than 40m books and her work, often set in Ireland, has been translated into 27 languages. Trained as a teacher before moving into journalism and writing, her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, was published in 1982. She had written it in her spare time from her day job as a journalist at The Irish Times. She is survived by her husband, writer Gordon Snell.