Leading figures from the world of politics, the arts and journalism have been paying tribute to the journalist and writer, Maeve Binchy, who died yesterday. She was 72.

Over 40 million of Ms Binchy's books were sold worldwide and translated into 42 languages.

Some of her work was also adapted for screen including the 1995 film ''Circle of Friends''.

President Michael D Higgins said Maeve Binchy had engaged millions of people around the world with her fluent and accessible style.

The President said she was ''an outstanding novelist, short story writer and columnist''.

He said: "She was a great storyteller and we enjoyed her capacity to engage, entertain and surprise us."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered his sympathies on behalf of the Government and the Irish people to her husband Gordon and extended family.

He said people across Ireland and the world were mourning and celebrating the writer, describing her as a "national treasure".

He said: "Today as a nation we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy".

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran said Ms Binchy's contribution to the world of Irish writing is incomparable.

She was a frequent contributor to RTÉ Radio over many decades and her early appearances included panel contributions to the 1968 music and variety programme ''On Stage''.

Her radio drama work included the award winning ''Infancy'' and ''Tia Maria'', which starred Oscar winner Kathy Bates.

Author Cathy Kelly tweeted this morning: "The world is truly a darker place without the golden light of lovely Maeve Binchy. We'll all miss her genius."

Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley described Ms Binchy as a woman of "rare charm, warmth and generosity of spirit".

He said she loved people and her unique insight into human nature shone through her journalism and novels.

Scottish writer Ian Rankin said Ms Binchy had time for everybody because her stories came from all of us and were for all of us.

Film producer Noel Pearson said she was the kindest and most generous person he had ever met.

He said she was someone who was never in bad humour, despite being in great pain in the past few months.

Novelist Patricia Scanlan said Ms Binchy was extremely generous to aspiring writers, and would give them great encouragement and advice.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said Ms Binchy had once described writing as a "big pie, with plenty for all of us".

Ms Scanlon said: "The greatness about Maeve was that she had empathy, and any reader who read her understood perfectly where she was coming from because she touched the lives and the hearts of people."

She described her as "massive inspiration to all of us".

Chief Executive of Age Action Robin Webster paid tribute to Ms Binchy's work for the charity.

He said that even in recent years when her mobility was restricted she continued to record radio adverts and photo calls for Age Action from her dining room table.

Early life

Ms Binchy was born in Dalkey in Co Dublin and studied at UCD.

She initially worked as a teacher before becoming a journalist, columnist and later women's editor at The Irish Times.

She then moved to London where she continued to work for the paper.

Her early short story collections were based in London and Dublin and featured sharp, funny and often poignant observations of residents of those cities.

Her first novel, ''Light A Penny Candle'' was published in 1982 and became a bestseller.

Set during World War II and in the following years, it featured many elements that were to characterise her work; life in small-town Ireland, family relationships, humour and gripping plots.

She went on to publish many other novels and short story collections, among them ''Circle of Friends'' and ''Tara Road'', both of which were adapted as feature films.

Although she announced her retirement in 2000, she continued writing and her last novel ''Minding Frankie'' was published in 2010.

In the same year, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.

She is survived by her husband, writer Gordon Snell.

The RTÉ Guide's Donal O'Donoghue met Maeve Binchy in 2010 to discuss her novel Minding Frankie.

The Meaning of Life – Maeve Binchy (2009)

Watch a re-screening of Maeve Binchy - At Home in the World - RTÉ One 10.05pm