First Minister Rt. Hon Peter D Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA have expressed their profound sadness at the death of Nelson Mandela.
The First Minister said: "It is with deep sorrow that I heard of the death of Nelson Mandela and I offer my condolences to his entire family circle at this time. We have known for some time that he was ill, nonetheless, it still comes as a great shock to lose such an inspirational man and a massive figure in terms of world politics.
"I met Nelson Mandela on two occasions and was struck by his considerable humility and charisma. He did not see himself in terms of celebrity yet barely anyone throughout the world would not recognise his name and that is no small part because of his unique ability to connect personally with people.
"Nelson Mandela carried out his role with a real talent to draw people and whole communities together. South Africa and the rest of the world had a tremendous respect for him.
"When I asked how he dealt with opposition and the business of negotiation he commented that real negotiation is not with political opponents, rather with your own community and while they may feel you are stepping ahead of them, it is important to convince them to make the journey - a message so pertinent to our own peace process.”
The deputy First Minister said: "I offer my heartfelt sympathies to his family at this difficult time. I was honoured to meet Nelson Mandela the last time he was in Dublin and there is no doubt he was truly one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime.
"Through his humility, strong negotiation skills and desire for justice he earned respect as an ambassador for peace, human rights and democracy across the globe. It was appropriate in 1993 this was recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with former South African President FW De Klerk.
"He will be remembered for demonstrating what is possible when people are committed to peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict. Nelson Mandela has left an indelible mark not only in South Africa but across the world. In 1997, at a critical stage of our peace process, I was honoured to lead, at the invitation of President Mandela, a delegation to South Africa for significant discussion with South African peace negotiators, which also included all parties from the North.
"President Mandela’s interest in the success of the peace process was epitomised by the valuable contributions made by amongst others Cyril Ramaphosa, his Chief negotiator and the now Deputy President of African National Congress, who was a constant source of support to us throughout. Nelson Mandela was a true friend to Ireland.”