The writer Dermot Healy has died aged 66.

He was the author of novels, short stories, plays and five collections of poems. 

Born in Finea, Co Westmeath, Mr Healy spent his childhood in Cavan town, which he described in his memoir 'The Bend for Home'.

He then moved to London, before returning to Ireland, where he lived by the sea in Ballyconnell, north Sligo.

He was also a member of Aosdána. 

Chair of the Arts Council Sheila Pratschke said Mr Healy was a gifted writer of prose, drama and poetry whose "work was bravely and boldly original".

She said he had inspired and encouraged countless poets, short story writers and playwrights and his "influence will continue to be felt long after his death".

Ms Pratschke added: "Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time."

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said Mr Healy was one of Ireland's finest contemporary writers and will be remembered alongside the greatest Irish writers of any age.

The minister said: "Through his writings and his poetry, Dermot was an inspiration to many, and his loss will be keenly felt by us all."

Mr Healy's novels included 'Fighting with Shadows', 'A Goat's Song' and 'Sudden Times'.

His play 'Women to the Left, Men to the Right' was staged by the Abbey Theatre in 2001 and broadcast on RTÉ Radio in 2002.

He also wrote the screenplay for Cathal Black's film 'Our Boys'.

His poetry collections include 'What the Hammer and 'A Fool's Errand' and he founded and edited the literary journals 'The Drumlin' and 'Force 10'.

Commenting on Mr Healy's poetry, the late Seamus Heaney said: "I think of Dermot Healy as the heir to Patrick Kavanagh".

On the publication of his last novel, 'Long Time, No See', Eugene McCabe said Mr Healy was "one of the great masters of Irish writing".

Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle described him as "Ireland's greatest writer". 

Mr Healy is survived by his wife Helen and two children.