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Dublin crowds bid farewell to Irish songwriter Shane MacGowan

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Dublin (AFP) – Crowds lined the streets of Dublin on Friday to their pay respects to Irish songwriter Shane MacGowan, who died last month at the age of 65.

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MacGowan, lead singer of Celtic folk-punk band The Pogues, died on November 30, prompting a flood of tributes.

The thousands who gathered applauded as his coffin was carried the through the city in a horse-drawn carriage, led by the marching Artane Band, which played some of MacGowan’s hits including “Fairytale of New York” and “A Rainy Night in Soho”.

MacGowan, who had been in and out of hospital in Dublin since July, penned the Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York”, which he sang in a duet with Kirsty MacColl in 1987.

When the song, about a couple who have fallen on hard times, was played during the procession, the crowd could be heard applauding and singing along to the chorus.

Co-formed by MacGowan, The Pogues fused punk and Irish folk music. He was born in England but spent much of his childhood in Ireland with his mother’s family.

The band became an international symbol of Irishness, both at home and for the country’s sprawling diaspora, with MacGowan’s contribution recognised in a slew of tributes from political leaders.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called MacGowan “an amazing musician and artist” whose songs “beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad”.

Micheal Martin, Varadkar’s deputy, said he was “devastated” by MacGowan’s death.

“His passing is particularly poignant at this time of year as we listen to ‘Fairytale of New York’ — a song that resonates with all of us,” he wrote.

There were tributes too from Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army paramilitary group that fought for decades against British rule in Northern Ireland.

The Pogues’ 1988 song “Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six”, which recounted the plight of six Irishmen wrongly imprisoned for deadly pub bombings in Birmingham, was banned from British airwaves.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald called MacGowan “a poet, dreamer and social justice champion”.

“He was a republican and a proud Irish man. Nobody told the Irish story like Shane. He sang to us of dreams and captured stories of emigration,” she said.

The funeral will take place in St Mary of the Rosary Church in the town of Nenagh, west of Dublin, at 15:30 GMT, after which another procession will take place through the County Tipperary.

MacGowan will then be cremated in a private ceremony.

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