President McAleese has added her voice to the tributes being paid to the musician, Tommy Makem, who died in the US yesterday.

Mrs McAleese said he had brought happiness and joy to hundreds of thousands of fans the world over.

She added that he was always the consummate musician, and described him as a superb ambassador for Ireland, and one of whom the country would always be proud.

Mr Makem, who was 74, passed away after a long illness.

A musician, artist, poet and storyteller, he was best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

He was most associated with songs such as 'Four Green Fields', 'Gentle Annie' and 'Red is the Rose'.

Tommy Makem was born and raised in Keady in Co Armagh and emigrated to the United States in the 1950s.

There he teamed up with the Clancy brothers who were signed to Columbia Records.

He left the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career but later joined Liam Clancy to become Makem and Clancy. He went solo again in 1988.

Mr Makem visited his home in Northern Ireland just three weeks ago where he received an honorary degree in Belfast.

He died yesterday in Dover, New Hampshire following a long battle with lung cancer.

Tributes have described him as one of the key figures in bringing about the resurgence of traditional Irish music in the 20th century.

Liam Clancy described Tommy Makem as a man of high integrity, honesty, and, at the end, courage.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Seamus Brennan, said: "Tommy was a wonderful ambassador for Ireland, its music, culture and traditions, through his appearances on TV, radio and concert halls throughout the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe."

He concluded: "Tommy was truly a music legend in his own lifetime. Now, with his passing, he has left behind a rich and enduring legacy of music, song and story to be enjoyed and appreciated by this generation and generations to come."

Stephanie O'Callaghan, Arts Council Art Director, said: "The death of Tommy Makem is a huge loss for Irish music. He was one of the most influential and talented folk musicians this country has produced. He transported a unique style of music across the world and fostered a love of it in many hearts. He will be sorely missed."