'One of the greatest writers we ever had'
MAEVE Binchy's wide circle of friends have paid glowing tributes to a well-loved author.
Her husband Gordon Snell was at her side when she passed away after a short illness.
The Lilac Bus author suffered greatly from arthritis, but pals said the determined, independent soul never complained.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny led tributes today, describing her as "a national treasure".
"Across Ireland and the world people are mourning and celebrating Maeve Binchy," he told the Herald.
Maeve (72) had completed an incredible 16 novels over her career which sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
She had recently revealed to her fans that her health was failing.
"My health isn't so good these days and I can't travel around to meet people the way I used to," she wrote on her website.
"But I'm always delighted to hear from readers."
The author spoke last month at the Dalkey Book Festival where she read from her most recent short story -- poignantly revealing it would be her last.
Fellow author Cathy Kelly said this morning that the key to her success was writing about real people.
"She really was this amazing, warm generous person," she told the Herald.
"I think she was one of the most incredible writers Ireland has ever had. I don't think a lot of people realise that. She wrote with wonderful simplicity and people think it was easy. What she did was genius. She captured people's hearts and minds.
"All I keep thinking of is poor Gordon. They were always together with beautiful desks beside each other."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that the country was in mourning. "She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished," he said.
"Today as a nation we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy.
"I offer my deepest sympathies on behalf of the Government and the Irish people to her husband Gordon Snell and extended family."
And her final novel A Week In Winter has been completed and will be released this October.
Born in Dalkey, where she continued to live until the day she died, Maeve was the eldest of four children.
Her career started as she began to write postcards home to her family from her travels and from there she secured a column with a newspaper.
The former teacher shot to global fame after she was invited on to the Oprah Winfrey show as part of her book club.
Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, who took up roles in several movie versions of her books, said that the author always had plenty of time for everyone.
"As a person, she was charming, intelligent, warm, generous with her time, effort and work," she said.
"I did a couple of her stories that were made into films. I just had the greatest of respect for her."
Author Patricia Scanlan said that she was in awe of Maeve as she was developing her own writing career.
"She was just so kind, normal and generous," she said. "Her generosity was enormous."
Circle Of Friends, The Lilac Bus and Tara Road are her best known books which were adapted for the screen.