Senior Belfast republican Bobby Storey has died, Sinn Fein has announced.
The party's president Mary Lou McDonald expressed 'deep sadness' at the death of Mr Storey, who was former IRA commander and the northern chairman of Sinn Fein. He was also a close ally of former party leader Gerry Adams.
Mr Storey, who was in his mid-60s and died following illness, is survived by his partner Teresa, his children and grandchildren and siblings Seamus, Brian and Geraldine.
Ms McDonald said: "Bobby was a lifelong and very deeply committed Irish Republican whose passing will be received with great sadness by republicans throughout Ireland.
“Bobby was involved in republican activism for over forty years and suffered great hardship for his selfless dedication to his republican ideals.
Mr Storey spent over twenty years in prison. As a teenager, he had been interned without charge.
The north Belfast man later took part in a 1983 escape of prisoners, in which 38 Provisional IRA inmates escaped from the top-security Maze Prison in the biggest jailbreak in Europe since the Second World War.
One prison officer was shot in the head, but survived; a second was stabbed three times in the chest and died.
After his release in 1994, Mr Storey went on to play a prominent role in the development of Sinn Fein, serving as Chairperson of Sinn Fein in Belfast and then Chairperson of the party’s Six County Cuige.
He was widely believed to have been the IRA's head of intelligence. In 2005, then Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside used parliamentary privilege to make the claim.
Mr Storey was questioned about the 2002 theft of security files from the Special Branch headquarters at Castlereagh police station and about the 2004 Northern Bank robbery.
In 2014, he was questioned about the disappearance of Jean McConville. In 2015, he was detained over the murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan.
He was subsequently released without charge.
In a press conference after his release he compared the IRA to a caterpillar, insisting the organisation had become a "butterfly" and had "flew away".
"The IRA has gone. The IRA has stood down, they have put their arms beyond use," he said.
"They have left the stage, they are away and they're not coming back."
Ms McDonald said: “Bobby was extremely committed to the pursuit of a United Ireland with equality and social justice for all. He will be greatly missed.
'Today we have lost a great republican. His loss will be felt by all who had the privilege to call him their friend."
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill paid tribute to the man she described as a "much-valued and loved friend and comrade".
"Bobby Storey... played a vital role in developing the peace and political process over the past two decades
"He was an enduring tower of strength and will be deeply missed by us all."
Sinn Fein has said it will announced funeral arrangements in due course.