Former Northern Ireland deputy first minister and civil rights campaigner Seamus Mallon has died aged 83.

He passed away in Co Armagh this afternoon.

Mr Mallon became involved in the civil rights movement and the SDLP in the late 1960s.

As SDLP deputy leader, he went on to play a key role in the peace process, leading to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He then served as deputy first minister in the power-sharing administration with first minister David Trimble.

Mr Mallon also served as a Westminster MP from 1986 until 2005 and was a member of Seanad Éireann in 1982.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute to Mr Mallon, saying "Ireland has lost one of its most fierce champions for justice, equality and peace".

Mr Eastwood said: "Seamus Mallon was a force of nature. 

"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. 

"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.


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"It didn't matter who you were, where you worshipped or what your politics were, there was always help to be found at Seamus' hearth. 

"I joined the SDLP because of people like Seamus 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.

"Seamus lived for Ireland and worked for all of its people - we are all the better for it," said Mr Eastwood.