The death has been announced of the founder and leader of The Chieftains, Paddy Moloney.

President Michael D Higgins has led the tributes, saying he was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music.

From Donnycarney in north Dublin, he grew up in a musical family and began playing the tin whistle and then the uileann pipes, learning from the pipe master Leo Rowsome.

He formed several groups with musicians in duets and trios, and in 1962 formed the band that would become The Chieftains Sean Potts and Michael Tubridy.

Performing with The Chieftains in 1984

The Chieftains went on to become one of the best-known Irish traditional groups in the world, winning six Grammys as well as many other awards.

Mr Moloney and The Chieftains worked with a vast range of artists over their long career, making guest appearances with and contributing to albums by Ry Cooder, Marianne Faithful, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, and Sinead O'Connor. In 1987 they recorded the acclaimed 1987 album Irish Heartbeat album with Van Morrison.

Mr Moloney, who also played button accordion and bodhrán, was the main composer and arranger of The Chieftains' music and composed for films, including Treasure Island, The Grey Fox, Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon.

He was married to artist Rita O'Reilly and had three children, Aonghus Moloney, Padraig Moloney, and the actress and producer Aedin Moloney.

Paddy Moloney pictured with his daughter Aedín Moloney and wife Rita Moloney at the Gold Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Music awards, New York City, 2011

In 1968 he left his job at building film Baxendales and began working full time in the music industry as the Managing Director of Claddagh Records.

He ran the label until 1975 and helped establish the label's catalogue and reputation as one the leading imprints for trad and folk music.

While at Claddagh he also produced, co-produced or supervised 45 albums of folk, traditional, classical, poetry and spoken word recordings.

In 1980 he recorded with Paul McCartney on the Tug of War album, beginning sessions with the former Beatle and producer George Martin in AIR Studios in London the day after John Lennon was murdered in New York.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive said Mr Moloney made an enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance, and has left a wonderful musical legacy.

Paddy Moloney

Paying tribute to one of its founding members, Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the Society of Uilleann Pipers, described Mr Moloney as "a giant of a figure in Irish life".

"Paddy Moloney was a wonderful piper, an incredibly creative musician and a powerful performing artist," said NPU chief executive Gay McKeon.

"He helped popularise Irish music all over the world and in doing so, brought the sound of the uilleann pipes to the attention of so many.

"We have lost one of the country's foremost artists whose legacy is inestimable at this point. On behalf of NPU and the uilleann piping community, I would like to extend our condolences to his wife Rita, sons Aonghus and Pádraig and daughter Aedín, to the musicians who played with him and his many friends worldwide. Leaba i measc na naomh go raibh aige."

The Arts Council also expressed its sadness at the passing of Mr Moloney.

Arts Council Chair Prof. Kevin Rafter said: "Paddy Moloney's unique style of uilleann piping is one of the most instantly recognisable sounds of Ireland.

From his early days with Ceoltóiri Chualann, his founding of Claddagh Records with Garech de Brún, to the groundbreaking and award-winning music with The Chieftains, Paddy has been a constant in our lives for decades and has been instrumental in bringing our rich traditional music to audiences across the globe."

Watch Paddy Moloney's performance on RTÉ's The Performers in July 1986:

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