Former Stormont deputy first minister and SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon has died at the age of 83, the SDLP has announced.

Announcing Mr Mallon's death, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Ireland had lost one of its most fierce champions for justice, equality and peace.

Mr Eastwood said the former civil rights campaigner had "carved a pathway" beyond Ireland's troubled past, providing an opportunity to build a shared home on the island.

"Seamus Mallon was a force of nature," he said. "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."

Mr Eastwood added: "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.

"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.

"The pride of Seamus' life was his dearly-loved late wife Gertrude, their daughter Orla and granddaughter Lara.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Orla, her husband Mark and Lara at this difficult time. I hope they're comforted by Seamus' incredible legacy and the indelible mark he left on the lives of so many people."

Deputy leader Seamus Mallon (R) and leader of the Irish SDLP John Hume

Ireland's Tanaiste Simon Coveney tweeted: "Very sad to learn of passing of the great Seamus Mallon. He has made an extraordinary contribution to politics & people on this island. He was tough, intelligent and passionate, always working for peace and reconciliation.

"My sincere condolences to his family and friends. RIP."