Northern Ireland unites in praise of inspirational leader
Hume hails Mandela as ‘courageous leader and a true peacemaker’
John Hume: “Nelson Mandela was a strong supporter of the Irish peace process and the Good Friday agreement”
Northern Ireland political leaders past and present have united in praise of Nelson Mandela, remembering his role in advancing the peace process here.
Nobel peace prize winner and former SDLP leader John Hume said the former president “not only stood against the injustice and inequality of apartheid, but rose above it and overcame it, leading his nation and his people on the road to freedom”.
“Nelson Mandela was a strong supporter of the Irish peace process and the Good Friday agreement, consistently promoting the need for inclusive dialogue, consultation and negotiation as opposed to confrontation and conflict.” .
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson spoke of his shock at the loss of “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. 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.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also spoke of his meetings with Mr Mandela. “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.”
Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers said Mr Mandela “touched Northern Ireland in many ways”.