Former Stormont deputy first minister Seamus Mallon has died at the age of 83.
The deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process.
He lived in Markethill, Co Armagh, and has been hailed as a champion of justice and reconciliation.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “In the darkest days of conflict, when hope was in short supply, Seamus represented the fierce thirst for justice that ran through the SDLP and through communities that had lost so much to political violence.”
Seamus Mallon was an Irish Patriot. He lived for our country and has left an indelible mark on the lives of everyone who enjoys the peace he helped forge.
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) January 24, 2020
Mr Mallon was deputy first minister of the first devolved Assembly at Stormont following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, leading the powersharing coalition government along with first minister David Trimble of the Ulster Unionists.
Mr Eastwood said the pride of Mr Mallon’s life were his late wife Gertrude, their daughter Orla and granddaughter Lara.
He added: “His passion for peace underpinned by truth, justice and reconciliation came from a lifetime as a proud son of Markethill where he was born, grew up and raised his own family.
“It didn’t matter who you were, where you worshipped or what your politics were, there was always help to be found at Seamus’s hearth.”
He said he joined the SDLP because of people like Mr Mallon.
“His absolute opposition to the murder and maiming of our neighbours, his immense work to reform policing and deliver a new police service that could command the support of our entire community, and his unrelenting commitment to making this a place we can all call home inspired so many young SDLP members.
“Throughout my political life, Seamus was a constant source of guidance, advice and, when needed, some robust critical reflection.
“His support has been an immense source of personal pride. I hope that I’ve done him proud in return.”
He said Mr Mallon lived for Ireland and worked for all of its people.