1984-1995 — The Irish Rover
Between 1984 and 1987, the Dubliners continued to tour; in Germany, Scandinavia and Australia their popularity hadn't diminished, but in Ireland they played less. During this period Ronnie was looking to the future with and without the Dubliners. "I've been branching out and doing a lot of stuff on my own because when you're playing with the Dubliners all the time it's like being one show for 25 years. I've been doing quite a few things on my own recently. I think you need to get out because you get a bit stale in the group. Next year the Dubliners will be 25 years together. I think it's time we're going to make an album—a double album next year. We're only going to do three or four old numbers and twenty-four new ones as well and Jim McCann will be on it and there's a group in England called the Pogues—they say they've been influenced by us, and they're going to get to do one song with us. I'll probably have Stockon's Wing as well doing another number that we did in Australia — 'Now I'm Easy.'"
The album the Ronnie was referring to was Celebration, and with it an appearance on the Late, Late Show, the Dubliners made a most spectacular comeback (although, in fact, they'd never really been away). The Late, Late Show tribute included appearances by Jim McCann, Christy Moore, U2, The Pogues, Stockton's Wing, Charles Haugey and a moving recitation by Ciarán Bourke. Their collaboration with The Pogues of "The Irish Rover" blew off the roof and the Dubliners, once again, experienced popularity on par with their heyday in the sixties.
Countless television appearances and sold-out concerts followed. In 1988, the Dubliners suffered yet another tragedy. While on tour in England, the group received word that Ciarán had been rushed to the hospital and was in very serious condition. The group flew back to Dublin and within hours of their arrival at the hospital Ciarán Bourke passed away. While Ciarán had been unable to perform for over ten years, The Dubliners continued to pay him (a fact never made public until after his death) and did not take on a full-time 5th member during his lifetime.
After Ciarán's death, Eamonn Campbell was asked to officially join the group. The line-up of Ronnie, Barney, John, Seán and Eamonn released two more albums, The Dubliners' Dublin and 30 Years A Greying, in addition to contributing several tracks on the Official Dublin Millennium Album. Ronnie also took a verse (from the same album) on Band Of Dubs' version of "Molly Malone", with the rest of the group also playing on the song. Much like Celebration, 30 Years A Greying included several guest appearances, this time from Billy Connolly, Hot House Flowers, Rory Gallagher and The Pogues.
1996-2011 — Enter Paddy, then Patsy
In late 1995, Ronnie decided to once again leave group and go solo, with Paddy Reilly taking his spot.
This version of the Dubliners has released two albums to date, Further Along in 1996 and Alive, Alive O in 1997, and maintained a regular touring schedule. The year 2000 saw both Barney McKenna and Seán Cannon suffering health problems and the future of the Dubliners, in the minds of some, became in question.
2002 marked the 40th anniversary of this most extraordinary band, and the release of 2 CDs and 1 DVD—featuring all of the surviving Dubliners (past and present).
Unfortunately, during the 40th anniversary tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer. Jim embarked on a very aggressive battle and has been cancer since then. Sadly, the treatment damage his voice and, to date, has effectively ended his singing career.
However, this has not stopped Jim from appearing as compere at many Dubliners' concerts and with the "Legends of Irish Folk" tour.
The fall of 2005 saw yet another change in the Dubliners line up, as Paddy Reilly left the group. According to www.tynesideirish.com, "It is alleged that Paddy Reilly left the Dubliners after being left land which an Estate Agent sold for him for 13 million euros (approx. £9 million or 15 million dollar) not a bad reason to retire!" Patsy Watchorn has been touring with the Dubliners since September of 2005, and this edition of the Dubliners has released 3 recordings: Dubliners Tour Sampler; Live At Vicar Street & A Time To Remember.
Sadly, on Saturday, August 16, 2008, Ronnie Drew passed away at the age of 73 after a year long battle with cancer. President (of Ireland) Mary McAleese led tributes: "It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of the great Irish singer Ronnie Drew". She said he was a champion of traditional Irish music and with The Dubliners re-energised and refreshened Ireland's unique musical heritage. I had the good fortune of meeting and befriending Ronnie Drew, and he will always remain my favorite — a true gentleman, and great man.
2012 — End of an Era!
2012 marked the Dubliners 50th Anniversary as band, with tour dates throughout the year. Sadly, on April 5th, Barney McKenna, the last surviving founding member, passed away at the age of at the of 72. Gerry O'Connor was recruited to filled in for Barney on most of the remaining performances. Towards the end of the year, John Sheahan announced his retirement, officially ending the era of the Dubliners.