JOHN Hume, the former Northern Ireland politician who won the Nobel peace prize for his efforts to end the Troubles, has died at the age of 83.

The former leader of the SDLP, MP and MEP, who had suffered from dementia, died in the Owen Mor nursing home in his native Derry, his family said

In a statement, they said: “He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family. It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: we shall overcome."

A key figure in the civil rights movement of the late 1960s, Mr Hume advocated non-violence throughout his political career.

However he took part in secret talks with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s which would prove a catalyst for the peace process.

His dialogue with Mr Adams led to intense criticism when it became public in 1983, including 

From some in the SDLP, the party he founded and led for 22 years.

Despite threats to his life, he persisted with his efforts to engage with the republican movement and to convince the IRA to end its campaign of violence

The highlight of his career came in 1998 with the signing of the historic Good Friday accord that largely ended Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end the bloodshed alongside Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble the same year.

In 2010, Mr Hume was named "Ireland's Greatest" in a poll by Irish broadcaster RTE.

Lord Trimble said: “Even before he played such a vital role in securing the Belfast agreement, from the outset of his career John was firmly committed to peaceful means and opposed the efforts of other people to achieve their objectives through violence. 

“Those who thought they could win using violence could not succeed and eventually realised that they had to come into the political process as John had long argued.”  

Former prime minister Tony Blair called Mr Hume “a political titan, a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past”.

He said: "His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it. He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen."

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said Mr Hume was a "great hero and a true peace maker".

He said: "Throughout his long life he exhibited not just courage, but also fortitude, creativity and an utter conviction that democracy and human rights must define any modern society.

"For over four decades, he was a passionate advocate for a generous, outward-looking and all-encompassing concept of nationalism and republicanism. For him, the purpose of politics was to bring people together, not split them apart."

Irish President Michael D Higgins said Mr Hume had transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland.

"All of those who sought and worked for peace on our island of Ireland, and in the hearts of all, will have been deeply saddened by the passing of John Hume, Nobel Peace Laureate and statesman," he said.

The president noted Mr Hume's personal bravery and leadership and "steadfast belief in the principles and values of genuine democracy".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, the MP for Mr Hume’s former Foyle seat, said Mr Hume was Ireland's most significant and consequential political figure.

"It is no exaggeration to say that each and every one of us now lives in the Ireland Hume imagined - an island at peace and free to decide its own destiny," he said.

"This is an historic moment on this island, but most of all it is a moment of deep, deep sadness. In the days ahead, Ireland will be united in mourning his loss.

"However, amidst that national mourning, it is equally true that the marking of John's death also opens up a space to reflect on, and celebrate, the magnitude of his life.

"As part of that reflection of John's work, never has the beatitude rung truer - blessed be the peacemakers.

"The life of John Hume will forever be a blessing upon this island since Ireland is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the greatest legacy a political leader can bestow upon his country."

On Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Very sad news. He led a life that made a difference and leaves a legacy that will live on. RIP John Hume.”