Condolence book signed for ‘greatest African leader of his time’

Book of condolences for Nelson Mandela opened at the South African ambassador’s residence

Oran Doyle from Terenure, with his son Cathal (6)  signing the Book of Condolence for the late Nelson Mandela at the South African ambassador’s residence in Ballsbridge, Dublin, today.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Oran Doyle from Terenure, with his son Cathal (6) signing the Book of Condolence for the late Nelson Mandela at the South African ambassador’s residence in Ballsbridge, Dublin, today. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 17:49

Nelson Mandela was the “greatest African leader of his time” according to the Nigerian ambassador to Ireland.

Felix Pwol was speaking as he signed the book of condolences for Mr Mandela at the South African ambassador’s residence in Dublin today.

“His message of reconciliation and forgiveness is more relevant now than ever. Even as student in college I remember giving money to support the cause of Mandela.” He said Nigeria was always one of the greatest African allies of the black people in South Africa during the apartheid regime.

“You know in the 1970s Nigeria nationalised British Petroleum and the Barclays Bank in Nigeria in protest at their involvement with the South African regime. So, I am here on behalf of the Nigerian people to sign the book.”

Mr Pwol was one of many ambassadors who signed the book at the Ballsbridge residence today. Other ambassadorial signatures in the book included those from the embassies of Portugal, Korea, Russia, Cuba, Spain, Austria, Ethiopia, the Nertherlands, Britain and Bulgaria.

Gwyneth McCarthy, originally from Johannesburg and living in Ireland for 13 years, said she would not have been able to come to Ireland had it not been for Mandela.

“I would not have had the opportunities or education as a black girl in South Africa if it hadn’t been for him. I was quite lucky because I went to a mixed school but I remember there were two bus-stops for the buses, one for black children and one for white. When the laws changed there were some white children who got on the ‘black’ bus but none of us had the confidence to get on the ‘white’ bus. So, you can change laws but it takes a long time to change people.”

She is now working in IT for AIB bank and is married to an Irish man. She has two children and said she had asked her older son, aged 13, whether he understood how important Mandela was. “He said, ‘Of course. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.’ So I am glad. It is sad but I feel now he is resting. I was wanting him to live forever, but he has given enough now.”

Oran Doyle, from Terenure, Dublin, was there with his son Cathal.

“I brought him because he is only six and he obviously doesn’t know much yet about Nelson Mandela. So this is the only way he can really participate in what has happened. I feel it’s important for him to do this because soon he’ll be in school, learning about Nelson Mandela, and it would just be another lesson but if he has actually done something, well he’ll remember this and it will be more real for him.”

On a console table just inside the front door of the residence an enormous bouquet of flowers was sitting, with a note of sympathy, signed from the Dr Nooh Al Kaddo, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin.