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

“Lives around the world have been changed forever, and hopes kindled, by his transformational life and enduring legacy.”

Nelson Mandela at Trinity College, Dublin in 2000, where he was conferred with an Honorary Degree
Nelson Mandela at Trinity College, Dublin in 2000, where he was conferred with an Honorary Degree
Image: Chris Bacon/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated at 00.02am

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS has paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, following the South African icon’s death, describing him as “one of history’s greatest leaders”.

He said in a statement that Mandela had shown “unprecedented courage and dedication” in his campaign to end apartheid and that lives around the world had been changed forever “by his transformational life and enduring legacy”.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and the leaders of the two main opposition parties have also released statements tonight paying tribute to the political icon.

Enda Kenny said “a great light” had been extinguished with Mandela’s passing, while Eamon Gilmore said the world was a “poorer place”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was “deeply saddened” at the news, while Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he was a “towering figure”.

The President’s statement in full:

It is with deepest sadness that I have learned of the death of former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. On behalf of the people of Ireland, I offer sincere condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela is one of history’s greatest leaders; a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa and led the nation into a new and democratic age. The immense moral force that was Nelson Mandela was built on his commitment to all of the people, and was motivated by a deep humanity and limitless compassion that was delivered with modesty and a powerful simplicity. His journey to the ending of apartheid and into a new chapter in South African and world history was long, hazardous and involved considerable self-sacrifice.


Mandela with President Mary McAleese, pictured at the Áras during his 2000 visit [Chris Bacon/PA Archive/Press Association Images]

Despite incredible obstacles and numerous sanctions, including many years of imprisonment and isolation, he never lost belief or gave up fighting for the equal rights of all South African citizens. He inspired so many people at home and abroad who shared in his dream, and who chose to walk beside him on that long and difficult road to freedom. He had a gift of extraordinary grace and his life was completely and unselfishly given over to his people and future generations. His tenacity, bravery and extraordinary vision bore fruit for all when he saw his dream of a fair and united South Africa become, within his lifetime, a wonderful reality.

During the course of his presidency, Nelson Mandela continued his work of building unity through reconciliation by uniting socially segregated racial groups. He unceasingly toiled to remove the deep rooted social and economic inequalities which remained as challenges in South Africa, and was a tower of inspiration for all those struggling for justice all over the world.

Nelson Mandela will be remembered for all time as one of the greatest and most heroic leaders the world has ever known; a brave campaigner who changed the course of history; and a symbol of hope and inspiration to those who continue to struggle against oppression and domination. Lives around the world have been changed forever, and hopes kindled, by his transformational life and enduring legacy.


Cape Town, South Africa [AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam]

The Taoiseach’s statement:

The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe.

Today, a great light has been extinguished. The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself.

As we mark his passing, we give thanks for the gift of Nelson Mandela. We ask that his spirit continues to inspire, guide and enlighten us as we strive to bring freedom and dignity to the family of man, our brothers and sisters, across the world.

I offer my deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Irish Government and people, to his family, to his friends and supporters, and to the Government and the people of South Africa.


The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Johannesburg [Denis Farrell/AP/Press Association Images]

The statement from Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore:

It is with deep sadness and regret that I learned tonight of the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man who holds an extraordinary place in the hearts of the Irish people

Nelson Mandela had a truly global presence. We all feel part of his extended worldwide family, sharing in the sadness at his death and the celebration of his life.

No few words can express the debt of gratitude that is due to Mr. Mandela for all that he achieved and stood for. Quite simply, he transformed South Africa, and he changed the world.

Through our Embassy in Pretoria I have sent our deepest sympathies and condolences to Mr. Mandela’s family and to all of the people of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela greatly appreciated Ireland’s love for him and our country’s friendship and support to the people of South Africa, particularly, in their struggle to end the evil of apartheid.

On this day, I want to pledge our commitment to continuing his work for human rights, peace, equality and development for all of the people of Africa and of the world.

Our world is a poorer place for Nelson Mandela’s passing, but a far richer and better place thanks to his life. May he rest in peace, and may his values, his hopes, his wisdom and his inspiration live on.

imageA 95th birthday card made by pupils from the Melpark Primary School in Johannesburg [Denis Farrell/AP/Press Association Images]

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin:

I was deeply saddened to learn tonight of the passing of a true hero of our time, Nelson Mandela.

Mr Mandela was an icon of peace. His courage, his sacrifice and his unwavering faith in humanity was an inspiration to all of us. He has inspired many generations of people across the world, and that legacy will continue long after his passing.

While his death is a massive loss particularly for the people of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s message of peace will endure for many generations to come.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams:

It is with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of ‘Madiba’ Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela was a towering figure and an inspiration to freedom loving people the world over.

I wish to extend on my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin, my heartfelt sympathy to Madiba’s family, to the ANC and to the people of South Africa.

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann aris.

Originally posted at 10.08pm

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

Also: Obama: “He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”

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