Tributes paid to Kofi Annan as ‘dear friend of Ireland’

President and Tánaiste recall ‘inspirational leadership’ and sustained commitment to peace

Kofi Annan and former president Mary Robinson at One Young World event in Dublin in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Kofi Annan and former president Mary Robinson at One Young World event in Dublin in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Tributes have been paid to Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general who died on Saturday, as a “dear friend of Ireland” and an exceptional international statesman.

Ghanaian-born Mr Annan died at the age of 80 in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of Saturday.

In Geneva, the Kofi Annan Foundation announced his peaceful death after a short illness with “immense sadness”, saying he was surrounded in his last days by his wife Nane and children Ama, Kojo and Nina.

Mr Annan served two terms as UN secretary general in New York from 1997-2006 and retired to live in a Swiss village in the Geneva countryside.

President Michael D Higgins said he had learned of the death of the Nobel Peace laureate with “great sadness”.

“A lifelong advocate of international co-operation, Kofi Annan has left an indelible legacy on the global community, through his work at every level of the UN, including in the World Health Organisation and as secretary general, and more recently the Kofi Annan Foundation and The Elders,” Mr Higgins said.

‘Tireless efforts

“He will in particular be remembered for his tireless efforts to increase the commitment of governments and businesses alike in the vital efforts to eradicate poverty and violent conflict.”

Mr Higgins said Mr Annan’s “inspirational leadership” had led to the articulation of the Millennium Development Goals, “which galvanised countless new global solidarity initiatives”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Mr Annan was “an exceptional international statesman who worked tirelessly for a more peaceful and equal world”.

“Kofi Annan was a dear friend of Ireland and continuously demonstrated strong support for our own peace process and in particular the Good Friday agreement, which was signed during his leadership of the UN.”

He said Mr Annan had maintained a dedicated interest to Ireland and the maintenance of peace on the island, commentating as recently as April on the Belfast Agreement and its legacy.

“Throughout his 45 years of service at the United Nations, Kofi Annan held a number of positions, including undersecretary general of peacekeeping from 1992-1996,” Mr Coveney noted.

Dedication

“He became well acquainted with Ireland during his period in this office, and understood and appreciated Ireland’s unparalleled dedication to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. During a visit to Ireland in 2004, he met with Irish peacekeepers in Dublin to thank them for their service.”

Mr Annan also visited Ireland in 2015, marking the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations and “the positive and sustained commitment Ireland has made in areas such as peacekeeping, human rights, development and disarmament”.

Mr Annan was chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights, which includes former president Mary Robinson among its members.

It said he was a voice of “great authority and wisdom in public and private”, most recently on visits to South Africa and Zimbabwe last month.

“The world has lost an inspiring figure – but one whose achievements will never be forgotten, and whose commitment to peace and justice will endure to inspire future generations,” the organisation said.

The foundation said Annan was “a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world”.

It said arrangements to celebrate his “remarkable life” would be announced later.