The famous Irish folk ballad, sung at every Irish party, in every Irish home and in every bar around the globe, is now the focus of a new documentary in Ireland.

Composer Pete St John will feature in an RTE documentary on a special program dedicated to the cult ballad.

RTE has teamed up with Noel Pearson, best known as the produce of Oscar-winning movie 'My Left Foot' starring Daniel Day Lewis, to create the documentary.

"I can go anywhere in the world and people know my song. As a songwriter, it's the best calling card you could have," St John told the Irish Independent this week.

The ballad is set during the Great Irish Famine about a fictional man, Michael, from Athenry, Co. Galway, who was sentenced to exile in Botany Bay, Australia for stealing food for his starving family.

St. John wrote the song in the 1970s and it was first recorded in 1979 by Danny Doyle, reaching the top 10 in the Irish Singles chart.

After that, the song was released by Paddy Reilly in 1983. It remained in the Irish charts for 72 weeks.

A claim was made in 1996 that a broadsheet ballad published in 1880s had very similar wording to the song.

Folklorist and researcher, John Moulden, found no basis for this claim.

The RTE documentary, scheduled to air on television later this year, will trace the song back to the world cup in Italy in 1990 when thousands of Irish fans could be heard singing the Irish anthem in Italy.

"It's the Irish folk song that has taken over the world. Our program tells the story of how it happened," said a spokeswoman for Ferndale Films, Noel Pearson's company.