Tributes are being paid to the "true peacemaker" John Hume following his death at the age of 83.
Mr Hume, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of the principal architects of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, died in the early hours of this morning after a short illness.
President Michael D Higgins said that Mr Hume "through his words, his astute diplomacy and willingness to listen to what was often difficult to accept...transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland" with "personal bravery and leadership".
His "deep commitment" to peace and his "practical demonstration of tolerance and social justice", often in the face of opposition and tangible threats, "asserted the fundamental principles of democracy".
President Higgins said: "He and those others who helped usher in a discourse that enabled a new era of civil rights and responsive government that few would have thought possible, have placed generations in their debt, have been a source of hope."
‘I never thought in terms of being a leader. I thought very simply in terms of helping people’.
Nobel Laureate and former SDLP Leader John Hume passed away last night. We all live in the Ireland he imagined - at peace and free to decide our own destiny.
Thank you, John. pic.twitter.com/0yO5KWaTv7
— Social Democratic and Labour Party (@SDLPlive) August 3, 2020
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the former SDLP leader as "a great hero and a true peacemaker".
Mr Martin told Newstalk's Lunchtime Live that Mr Hume was "truly an inspirational figure".
The Taoiseach said: "We have an obligation to follow through on his work and to put flesh on the bone of his legacy by constantly working to bring people together, to develop constructive relationships."
In a statement, Mr Martin added: “Throughout his long life he exhibited not just courage, but also fortitude, creativity and an utter conviction that democracy and human rights must define any modern society.
“For over four decades, he was a passionate advocate for a generous, outward-looking and all-encompassing concept of nationalism and republicanism.
Also speaking on Lunchtime Live, the former Taoiseach John Bruton said John Hume changed people's attitude towards Northern Ireland.
He said: "He reframed the question to be how should the people of Northern Ireland relate to one another, so the issue moved from being one about land to one about people.
"That removed completely the intellectual justification for violence and that was the basis on which he eventually succeeded in persuading those who were using violence to give it up because it was a cul-de-sac.
"I think the structures that exist in Northern Ireland today owe an enormous amount to John Hume."
'Hero' of the peace process
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said Mr Hume was "a champion of peace" and "the real hero of the peace process".
Mr Ahern said: "He gave a high example in public service and he was a shrewd and astute politician, who played a distinguished role in making peace in Ireland and in shaping the Good Friday Agreement.
"For the peaceful vision he advocated, even through the darkest days of murder and mayhem in Northern Ireland, and for his tireless service to the Irish people, north and south, nationalist and unionist, this island owes John Hume a tremendous debt of gratitude.
"He was the philosopher, architect, and ultimately symbol of peace and John Hume never once faltered in his insistence that dialogue was the only way forward."
John Hume was a towering figure, a national icon. I am so sorry to learn of his death. Deepest condolences to his wife Pat, to his children and wider family, friends and colleagues in @SDLPlive
"Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) August 3, 2020
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Hume was "a towering figure in Irish politics, who took decisions that were not popular in his own ranks in the pursuit of peace".
The former leader of the party Gerry Adams told Newstalk that peace on the island of Ireland would not have happened when it did without John Hume.
A 'great healer' of history
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that Mr Hume's death "represents the loss of 20th century Ireland’s most significant and consequential political figure".
He said: "The life of John Hume will forever be a blessing upon this island since Ireland is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the greatest legacy a political leader can bestow upon his country."
He added: "It is important that John’s endeavours are fully appreciated in terms of their sheer scale - his impact and legacy extends well beyond one lifetime and well beyond the confines of Northern Ireland.
"His life’s work brought to an end the seemingly intractable historical arc of bitter conflict between the neighbouring islands of Britain and Ireland.
"After some 800 years which inflicted so much hurt and harm on all our peoples, it is John Hume who must now be remembered as the great healer of that history. For all of these reasons and more, John Hume truly was Ireland’s greatest."
John Hume was quite simply a political giant. He stood proudly in the tradition that was totally opposed to violence and committed to pursuing his objectives by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 3, 2020
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said we have "lost a great man" who helped "bring an end to the Troubles and build a better future".
The former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in power when the Good Friday Agreement was finalised, said Mr Hume was a "political titan" whose "contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was extraordinary".