British politician Mo Mowlam, whose no-nonsense style helped forge Northern Ireland's landmark peace accord, died Aug. 19 after hitting her head in a fall. She was 55.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who made Ms. Mowlam his top Northern Ireland official in 1997, paid tribute to "one of the most remarkable and colorful personalities ever to come into politics. Great company, utterly irreverent, full of life and fun."

Observers of the tense negotiations that led to the 1998 Good Friday accord, which revived Catholic and Protestant power-sharing in the British-governed province, cited Ms. Mowlam's approachability as a key factor.

Famously informal, she kicked off her shoes in meetings, threw her wig -- a product of her battle with a brain tumor -- on the table at a moment of high tension and was caught on tape calling Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness "babe."

In 1998, she met with Protestant paramilitary inmates inside the Maze prison, overcoming their opposition to peace talks.

Although some Protestant politicians felt that Ms. Mowlam favored the Irish nationalist cause, her tenure appeared to encourage the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party to participate in the peace process.

"I certainly had a sense that this was someone who wanted to be part of change. . . . I think she wanted to make a contribution, and I think she made a very powerful and worthwhile contribution," Sinn Fein's McGuinness told BBC television.

President Bill Clinton said that Ms. Mowlam's "persistence, toughness and good humor were legendary. . . . All of us who worked to support peace in Northern Ireland owe her our gratitude."

Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine), who chaired the talks that led to the Good Friday agreement, said that Ms. Mowlam "helped reinvigorate the process and bring it to a successful conclusion."

Ms. Mowlam, who recently suffered balance problems as a result of radiotherapy treatments for her tumor, hit her head in a fall last month, a family friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press.

She died at 8:10 a.m., family spokesman Brian Basham said in a statement.

Marjorie Mowlam -- universally known as Mo -- was one of Britain's most popular politicians, admired for her willingness to speak frankly, her bravery in fighting the brain tumor and her role in Northern Ireland's peace process.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said that Ms. Mowlam "was prepared to take risks for the peace process, risks to secure agreement and risks to implement it."

Even Ms. Mowlam's critics paid tribute to her tenacity.

"I may not have always agreed with her, but today I really feel I've lost a personal friend," said David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party.

A popular figure on the left of the Labor Party, Ms. Mowlam eventually fell out with Blair's centrist government. She was moved to a lower-profile position in 1999 and left politics in 2001.

Blair paid a warm tribute to Ms. Mowlam after her death was announced.

"It is no exaggeration to say she transformed the politics not just of Northern Ireland itself, but crucially of relations between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it was this transformation that created the culture in which peacemaking could flourish," Blair said in a statement released by his office.

Survivors include her husband, Jon Norton.

British politician Mo Mowlam was tenacious.