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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# Madiba
In pictures: Mandela's Irish visits
The South African leader visited Ireland on three occasions, most recently for the Special Olympics in 2003.

NELSON MANDELA PAID his first visit to Ireland just months after being released from his prison cell — in June 1990.

He had been awarded the Freedom of Dublin in 1988, and picked up the honour during his summer visit two years later. He would visit twice more: in 2000, when he received an honorary degree from Trinity College; and again in 2003, when he spoke in Croke Park at the opening of the Special Olympics.



Mandela and his wife Winnie are welcomed to Dublin by Taoiseach Charlie Haughey [Photocall Ireland]


At Áras an Uachtarain with President Patrick Hilery [PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images]


Mandela with Haughey, Labour leader Dick Spring and MEP Proinsias De Rossa [Photocall Ireland]


Crowds celebrate Mandela’s Dublin visit [Photocall Ireland]

Mandela addressed the Dáil in the course of the trip. In his opening comments, he apologised to the chamber, saying he had developed “a heavy cold” but that the stirring reception he had received “both from the Government and the people of Ireland has warmed my heart and every vessel in my body”.

He went on to say this:

The very fact that there is today an independent Irish State, however long it took to realise the noble goals of the Irish people by bringing it into being, confirms that we too shall become a free people; we too shall have a country which will, as the great Irish patriots said in the proclamation of 1916, cherish all the children of the nation equally.

The outstanding Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, has written that too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. He spoke thus because he could feel within himself the pain of the suffering that Irish men and women of conscience had had to endure in centuries of struggle against an unrelenting tyranny. But then he also spoke of love, of the love of those whose warm hearts the oppressors sought to turn to stone, the love of their country and people, and, in the end the love of humanity itself.

(You can read the full text from the Oireachtas records)



With President and Doctor McAleese at  Áras an Uachtarain [Photocall Ireland]


Sharing a joke (we hope) [Chris Bacon/PA Archive/Press Association Images]


Speaking to the media alongside Taoiseach Bertie Ahern [Photocall Ireland]


Receiving a Special Millennium Commencement Award at Trinity College, Dublin [Chris Bacon/PA Archive/Press Association Images]


In 2003, Mandela visited NUI Galway where he was given an honorary degree on the 20 June 2003. In a statement following his passing, Dr Jim Browne, President of the university said:

Madiba has a special place in the affections of NUI Galway staff, alumni and students. Following the tenth anniversary of his honorary conferring, on 20 June 2003, we still cherish vivid memories of the day of his visit.  That day counts amongst the most memorable occasions in the history of our University.”

image(Mandela at NUIG. Photo courtesy of NUIG)

imageOn stage with Bono at Croke Park at the opening of the 2003 Special Olympics


[File pool pictures, Steve Humpheys via Photocall Ireland]

(Youtube: SpecialOlympicsHQ)

Read: “He taught us how to come together and believe in ourselves”: The world reacts to Mandela’s death

Also: President Higgins: ‘A tower of inspiration for all those struggling for justice’

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