Belfast Telegraph

President leads tributes to McKenna

Irish President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to folk musician Barney McKenna, the last surviving member of The Dubliners, who has died, aged 72.

Renowned banjo player McKenna - affectionately dubbed Banjo Barney - passed away in his beloved Dublin, after collapsing at his home in Howth.

He was the last remaining member of the original line-up of The Dubliners, celebrated worldwide for their revival of Irish folk songs, their raucous sound and their hell-raising.

President Higgins, a friend of McKenna, said he had made a major contribution to music and song throughout his life, and above all to the banjo as an instrument.

"His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense," he said.

President Higgins recalled McKenna's "huge commitment" to the Irish abroad as well as at home, and the band's popularity in Britain, where The Dubliners played a packed Albert Hall in 1967 and again more than four decades on last month.

Fiddler John Sheahan, who joined The Dubliners just two years after it was formed in 1962, said McKenna's death would be a universal loss.

"He was one of these unique characters," he said. "He was like a brother to me, as were the other former members of the Dubliners. Over the years we became very much a family, I suppose, in our own right. He'll be a huge loss to everybody."

Brian Hand, agent for The Dubliners, said the band, McKenna's family and friends wanted to thank everyone for their kindness and support. "Words can not describe how we all feel, he really was one in a million," they said, in a statement. "The greatest tenor banjo player of his generation, Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music, he loved it, the world loved him, may he rest in peace."

McKenna is survived by his sister Maria Fuller and his brother Sean Og McKenna. No funeral arrangements have yet been made.

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