South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday evening that Nelson Mandela, aged 95, had passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny released a statement saying “a great light has been extinguished” upon hearing the sad news.

Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s deputy leader, added, “Nelson Mandela greatly appreciated Ireland’s love for him and our country’s friendship and support to the people of South Africa, particularly, in their struggle to end the evil of apartheid.”

In his address from Pretoria, Zuma said “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

Zuma announced that Mandela would be afforded a state funeral and South African flags would be lowered to half mast until his funeral.

Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multi-racial election. He also became the world’s most famous political prisoner, enduring 27 years in prison.

Announcing South Africa’s official period of mourning Zuma said, “As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified.

“Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family as we gather wherever we are in the country and wherever we are in the world.

“Let us recall the values for which Madiba fought.

“Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by

Kenny’s statement read:

“The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself.

“As we mark his passing, we give thanks for the gift of Nelson Mandela. We ask that his spirit continues to inspire, guide and enlighten us as we strive to bring freedom and dignity to the family of man, our brothers and sisters, across the world.”

Mandela had been receiving medical care for a recurring lung infection at his home following a three-month stay in hospital. Since his release the South African presidency had described his condition as critical but stable. reported that hundreds of journalists had gathered at his home on Thursday evening folowing rumors that his health was failing.

Read more: Nelson Mandela showed us all what could be when good men rule

Here’s a snippet of Zuma’s official announcement: