Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson died suddenly last night at his home in Belfast at the age of 53.
The party’s education spokesman had been receiving treatment for testicular cancer.
Mr Ferguson’s death came as an interview on his battle with cancer was being published in a Belfast-based newspaper.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams expressed his sympathies to Mr Ferguson’s family and friends.
“No one who met Michael could fail to see his passion for life and determination,” he said. Despite his illness, Michael’s death will come as a great shock to the many people who knew and respected him,” he said.
Married with four children, Mr Ferguson had been an active republican for most of his adult life. After a period of eight years in jail, he was elected to Lisburn Council in 1999.
He held a number of influential positions on Lisburn Council, defying unionist threats and intimidation. As a councillor and committed community activist Michael had led a number of successful campaigns on housing, traffic calming and against the siting of mobile phone masts in residential areas.
He also represented Sinn Féin on the All Ireland body charged with administering European funding and the Regional Strategic Partnership Board.
He died as he was due to receive chemo-therapy ‘top-up’ drugs at Belfast City Hospital marking the end of his first cycle of treatment.
Mr Ferguson had been keen to raise awareness about the disease that is now the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 45 in the North of Ireland.
In the interview published this morning, he urged other men to be more aware of the symptoms of testicular cancer.