Clare T.D. and Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade Pat Breen has paid tribute to Nelson Mandela describing him as a “towering political figure of our time, who inspired a generation through his courage, humanity and leadership from the dark days of apartheid and the realisation of the Rainbow Nation.”
“I was deeply saddened to hear of Nelson Mandela’s passing. On Friday I visited the South African Ambassador to Ireland His Excellency Jeremiah Ndou to express my sympathy and to sign the book of condolences. I also invited the Ambassador to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and he will be attending this afternoon when members our Committee will have the opportunity to pay our own tribute to Mr Mandela.
“The outpouring of worldwide grief which has followed the official announcement of Nelson Mandela’s death is a testament to the man who battled against inequality and discrimination all of this life. Although Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life incarcerated in South African Prisons, as a civil Rights activist and Anti-Apartheid Campaigner he has left a legacy of inspiration to the people of South Africa and to the Civil Rights Movement throughout the World.
Born into the Madiba Clan on the 18th July 1918, he became the first child from his family to attend School. In 1952, he set up the first black run law firm in South Africa and in 1994; he became the first black President of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela’s success in unifying the new Nation won him international acclaim as an advocate for conflict resolution through diplomacy and reconciliation and he became an inspiration for all those who strive for Peace throughout the World.
He also recognised the healing power that Sport would play in unifying his people and restoring his Country’s international reputation. Having been ostracised from International Sporting Participation during the apartheid era in a gesture of reconciliation he donned the Springbok Jersey and baseball cap and presented the World Rugby Cup to Francois Pienaar in 1995. And it was fitting that it his last public appearance at 91 years of age was at the Closing Ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup which was held in South Africa.
He was also a very strong advocate for the Special Olympics and I had the pleasure of being at the Opening Ceremony of the 2003 World Games which was held in Dublin when he was present and to witness the high regard in which he was held by the Special Olympics Movement and the Irish people.
“This afternoon, the South African Ambassador and our Committee will have the opportunity to share our memories of a heroic statesman who has left an indelible mark on his own nation and wider humanity.”