Former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds has died at the age of 81, following a long illness. In his three years as head of government, he played a central role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process.
Reynolds, who had been suffering from the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, died on Thursday at the age of 81, his Fianna Fail party said.
Reynolds served as the eighth prime minister of Ireland between 1992 and 1994, and is remembered for his commitment to ending sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland.
Current Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny said it was "with great regret" that he learned of the news, saying Reynolds had "played an important part in bringing together differing strands of political opinion."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter he was "sad to hear of the death of Albert Reynolds."
Reynolds served as finance minister during the 1980s, and led two short coalition governments before stepping down as prime minister in 1994. During his time as head of government, Reynolds signed the landmark Downing Street Declaration with the then-British Prime Minister John Major.
The deal, struck on December 15, 1993, affirmed the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination, and paved the way for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to declare a ceasefire in 1994. This move, in turn, led to a peace agreement in 1998, which eventually ended three decades of violence between pro-British loyalists and Irish Catholic Nationalists.
"What he brought to the process was a straight-forwardness. The ability to act when it matters is what stands out," Gerry Adams, president of the nationalist Sinn Fein party and a key figure in the peace talks, told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
Reynolds was born in 1932 in the town of Rooskey in Ireland's midwest. Besides his role in the peace process, Reynolds is also known for advocating greater European integration. He is survived by his wife Kathleen and seven children.
nm/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)