Former French president Jacques Chirac, a centre-right career politician who served as head of state from 1995 to 2007, has died.

He was 86.

"President Jacques Chirac died this morning surrounded by his family, peacefully," his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux said.

Twice elected head of state in 1995 and 2002, his 12 years in the Elysee Palace made him France's second longest-serving post-war president after his Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand.

On the international stage, Mr Chirac will be best remembered for angering the United States with his public opposition to the 2003 war in Iraq.

An instinctive conservative but with an appeal that extended beyond the right, Mr Chirac also served two stints as prime minister in 1974-76 and 1986-88 and was mayor of his native Paris from 1977-1995.

It was his time at the helm of the French capital that resulted, once he had lost his presidential immunity, in a conviction for embezzlement and misuse of public funds.

Mr Chirac had rarely been seen in public in recent years and was long known to have been suffering from ill health.

President of the European Commission and former Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker said he was "moved and devastated" to learn of Mr Chirac's death.

"Europe is not only losing a great statesman but the president is losing a great friend," European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva quoted Mr Juncker as saying.

Mr Juncker wants to "pay tribute and honour his extensive lifelong work, and his legacy for France and the European Union will stay with us forever," she added.

"Even though one could have prepared for such a tragic moment the president has no words to express his grief and we'll be publishing shortly a longer declaration."

President Higgins has said that he learned "with great regret" of the death of Mr Chirac, who he described as "a good friend of Ireland".

In a statement, Mr Higgins said that Mr Chirac's "contribution as a politician and statesman, over the course of a long career in public service spanning four decades, was a significant one.

"As President of France Jacques Chirac played a prominent role throughout one of the most important periods in recent European history".