The well known country music star Big Tom McBride has passed away at the age of 81.
In a statement, his family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father Big Tom McBride (RIP) this morning.
“Dad passed away peacefully in the company of his family.
“He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
“May he rest in peace.”
Tributes have already begun to pour in for the man Big Tom, whose career in country music spanned five decades.
The Irish prime minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, was amongst those with warm words for the ‘Mainliners’ frontman.
In a statement, Mr Varadkar said: “I was very saddened to hear of the death of Big Tom this morning.
“Big Tom was certainly a giant in Irish country music for over 50 years.
“With his band the Mainliners, he filled dance halls the length and breadth of the country. His songs were a reflection of Irish life and an important connection for the Irish diaspora.
“Not many people are known by their first name, but that was Big Tom. It shows his popularity and legendary status as the king of Irish country music.
“I want to extend my condolences to his family and his huge army of fans.”
Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Donegal singer Daniel O’Donnell described Big Tom McBride as “The King” of Irish country music.
Mr O’Donnell said: “I grew up all through Big Tom’s career. We all referred to him as The King.
“There was something special about his music, Big Tom was the one everyone saw as the main man.”
He continued: “It is just so sad. I am sure his family are devastated at his passing. He reached out to people in Ireland and those people who had emigrated from Ireland.”