South African ambassador speaks of his country’s loss
Irish politicians sign books of condolence
Seán Haughey, former lord mayor of Dublin, who presented Nelson Mandela with the freedom of Dublin signs the book of condolence at the Mansion House yesterday, alongside former lord mayor Ben Briscoe and Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn. The book of condolence will remain at the Mansion House today and tomorrow. Photograph: Alan Betson
South Africa’s ambassador to Ireland Jeremiah Ndou felt last night that the people who should be most in all our thoughts at this time were Nelson Mandela’s wife and family. “He is also a great loss to us as a nation. President Mandela was the embodiment of what we wanted as a nation.”
‘Love and support’
It was broader than that. “Africa has lost a son. The world has lost a leader who demonstrated that forgiveness and reconciliation can be possible.” He could see “his footprints” in the Northern Ireland peace process.
“The love and support of the Irish people make us feel humbled,” Mr Ndou said.
The news broke on Thursday night as embassy staff were attending a farewell reception for the ambassador, who is finishing his posting here. Next Wednesday he will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, where members will have an opportunity to pay tribute to Mr Mandela.
Committee chairman Pat Breen TD and secretary Brian Hickey visited the South African embassy yesterday, where Mr Breen expressed “deepest sympathy” to Mr Ndou.
At the Mansion House, three lord mayors of Dublin signed the book of condolence there. Ben Briscoe had been lord mayor in 1988 when the city council decided to award Mr Mandela the Freedom of Dublin. “As a member of a minority [Jewish] I felt it an extra honour to confer it on a member of another minority,” he said.
Seán Haughey was lord mayor in 1990 when Mr Mandela came to Dublin to be conferred with the honour. It was bedlam in the city, he recalled. “There were about 500,000 people on the streets” as a reception for the Italia ’90 Irish soccer team on College Green had taken place. Some arrived outside the Mansion House where there was a public rally for Mr Mandela. It was true, Mr Haughey recalled, that some in the crowd chanted “Ooh, ah, Paul McGrath’s Da”.
The current Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, remarked on how unusual at the time was the opposition of Irish people to apartheid.