Progressive Democrat Senator Kate Walsh passed away today after suffering from a long illness.

The Kildare North Senator announced last month that she would not be contesting the General Election due to her health.

At that time, she said the decision was taken with great regret.

She warmly endorsed the campaign of Jeff Ahern who is contesting the Kildare North constituency on behalf of the PDs.

Tánaiste Michael McDowell described Senator Walsh as a gentle yet brave woman whose many achievements made her an inspirational figure.

Health Minister Mary Harney described her as a close personal friend and said that she would be 'sadly missed' within the party.

Senator Walsh was an independent councillor who regularly topped the poll in the Celbridge area before joining the Progressive Democrats.

In 2002 she was nominated to the Seanad by the party and became the PD's Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs in 2003.

Ms Walsh was perhaps best known for organising the 'Black and White Ball' fundraiser, one of North Kildare's biggest social events of the year.

She made history in 1999 by gaining the highest first preference vote of any female candidate in the country during her campaign for Kildare Council, according to the Progressive Democrats.