PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins led the tributes to former minister Dr John O'Connell (pictured), who died yesterday.
Dr O'Connell, a former health minister and Ceann Comhairle, passed away at the age of 83. He served as a TD for both Labour and Fianna Fail.
President Higgins said he learned with sadness of the death of his colleague.
"His concern for the socially deprived was there from the beginning and continued through the various offices he held.
"He will also be remembered for his significant work both in medicine and medical publishing. He served as an early Irish member of the European parliament, as part of a political career that spanned three decades," he said.
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett also expressed his sympathies to Dr O'Connell's family.
"John served as Ceann Comhairle in the 22nd Dail in 1981 and in the 23rd Dail in 1982 and also had a distinguished career as a medical doctor, as founder of the 'Irish Medical Times', Minister for Health, MEP, senator and most importantly represented his constituents with dedication over a long period of time," he said.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said that although Dr O'Connell parted company with Labour in 1981, he always endeavoured to remain on good terms with his former colleagues.
"He retained a sense of shared values, particularly when it came to social issues. As a legislator, his success in continuing the work initiated by Barry Desmond in the process of liberalisation of contraception, will be his lasting legacy," he said.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Dr O'Connell was an "innovative and effective politician".
"John had a big influence in establishing the Patient's Charter and was a strong advocate for patient rights," he said.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly said Dr O'Connell was a major figure in medicine and politics.
"A general practitioner and a businessman, he was responsible for the production of the 'Irish Medical Times' and of MIMS – an invaluable guide to doctors on the issue of prescribing medicines," he said.