DESPERATE efforts by surgeons in Ireland and England to help seven-year-old Leana Martin, the youngest child of Foreign Minister Micheal and wife Mary Martin, sadly failed on Friday and she died from a cardiac illness.
Her devastated parents were by her bedside in Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.
Leana was hailed by her parents as "a beautiful light in our lives".
"Mary and Micheal are heartbroken at the loss of their darling Leana. The family would appreciate space and privacy at this sad time," said the family.
Leana -- who had a healthy childhood -- suddenly developed a serious cardiac illness over the past fortnight.
She was initially treated in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin.
Her condition continued to deteriorate and the decision was made to transfer her to Great Ormond Street in London for a continuation of specialist treatment.
Tragically, the little girl's condition continued to decline and she was placed on a life-support machine several days ago. Her parents were by her bedside in London when she passed away.
Leana was the youngest daughter of Micheal and Mary Martin who have three other children, Micheal Aodh, 16, Aoibhe, 14, and Cillian, 10.
Tragically, it is not the first time the couple have lost a child, with a baby boy having died five weeks after his birth some 10 years ago.
Mr Martin's mother, Eileen (Lana) Martin, also died last April after a courageous battle against a long-term illness.
President Mary McAleese led the expressions of sympathy to the Martin family on their tragic loss. Politicians from all parties also extended their deepest sympathies.
"I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of young Leana Martin in Great Ormond Street," Ms McAleese said.
"Leana's death is an unbearable loss for her parents Micheal and Mary, her brothers and sister and the wider Martin clan. I know the people of Ireland will feel immense sympathy for the Martin family as they face this devastating bereavement," she added.
"I have conveyed my heartfelt sympathies, and those of my husband, Martin, and family, to Micheal and Mary. We are keeping them all in our thoughts and prayers at this very sad time," Ms McAleese added.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said his sympathies went to the Martin family and he said all people can do is respect their wish for privacy. Constituency colleague Deputy Michael McGrath (FF) extended his deepest sympathies to the minister and his family. Fellow Cork TD Simon Coveney, FG, said it was a very tragic time for the minister and his entire family.
"I hope the media and public alike will respect the need for privacy. He and his family need and deserve space at times like this," Mr Coveney said.
Trade Minister Billy Kelleher described the news as "absolutely heartbreaking" for Michael, Mary and their extended family.
"My heart goes out to them at this very difficult time," he said.
Green Party leader John Gormley said he and his cabinet colleague, Eamon Ryan, and all party members had learned of Mr Martin's daughter's death with great sadness.
"Micheal, Mary and their family are very much in our thoughts at this very sad time for all of them," Mr Gormley said.
As a mark of respect to the Martin family, Friday's Cabinet meeting to discuss budgetary matters was adjourned when news of Leana Martin's death was confirmed.
Minister Martin has been a Cabinet Minister since 1997, holding the education, health, enterprise and now foreign affairs portfolios.
No details of Leana's funeral arrangements have been finalised as yet, given that it is expected to be several days before the little girl's body is returned to Cork from London.
The British Government have extended every co-operation to assist the heartbroken Martin family at such a difficult time.
Her funeral is expected to take place in Cork early next week.