The death has taken place in Dublin of Donal Toolan, the prominent disability rights campaigner, journalist and actor.

The 50-year-old died following a short illness, he was originally from Co Mayo.

In 1990, during the presidency of Mary Robinson, he became the first person with a disability to be nominated to the Council of State. 

He was 23 years old at the time and already a respected campaigner challenging discrimination against people with disabilities.

A wheelchair user from early childhood, he joined the recently-deceased Martin Naughton and others in their adoptive Dublin to found a variety of advocacy groups. He became director of the Forum for People With Disabilities.

He presented the RTÉ Radio series "Not So Different" and in 1993 he was awarded a Jacobs award and the National Broadcast Journalist of the Year prize for his work on the RTÉ television documentary series "In From the Margins".

Despite suffering serious health problems recently, he played a leading stage role in Rosaleen McDonagh's "Mainstream" at Dubin’s Project Arts Theatre last December.

He is survived by six siblings, eight nephews and nieces and a grand-nephew in whom he took particular pride. He will be buried with his parents, Jackie and Rita in Ballyhaunis at a time to be decided later in the week.

President Michael D. Higgins has issued a statement expressing his sorrow at the death of Mr Toolan.

"I have heard with sadness of the passing of Donal Toolan, co-ordinator of the Forum of People with Disabilities and former member of the Council of State," the statement said.

"A deeply committed advocate for legislation on disability rights, Donal Toolan had a rare skill to establish a rapport with all those with whom he dealt. 

"As a journalist, actor and campaigner he made a contribution to Irish public life that was of immense value. He will be missed in particular by all of us who had the privilege of knowing him. 

"Sabina and I express our condolences to his family, colleagues and wide circle of friends."