Maurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
I know there has been a request to pay tribute today to former South African President, Nelson Mandela, as has happened in the other House. I do not think there has been any shortage of tributes to the late Nelson Mandela since the news of his passing broke late last Thursday evening. However, it is fitting that this House pays its own tribute to such a remarkable and iconic man. No words of ours will do him justice, but some of those used over the last few days to describe the life of the anti-apartheid leader, Madiba, as he was affectionately known, have been “leader”, “hero”, “icon”, “giant of history”, “liberator” and “freedom fighter”. It is absolutely right that such words should be used.
Mandela was a towering figure of South Africa’s struggle for freedom who escaped the brutal apartheid regime, and was certainly a hero to many in the world. I suggest that his struggle was everybody’s struggle and I think that his transition from prisoner to president stands out as one of the greatest journeys to freedom the world has ever witnessed. He was a global symbol of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence; a custodian willing to die for what he believed in. To quote South African President Zuma:
He leaves the people of the world who embraced him as their own beloved icon. Most importantly, he leaves behind a deeply entrenched legacy of freedom, human rights and democracy in our country.
He was born in a small village in the Eastern Cape and he became involved in activism against the white minority regime as a young law student, joining the African National Congress. His peaceful means and his forgiveness are words that have been used more than most. He was willing to forgive those who imprisoned him and those who inflicted hardship on him. He was willing to move on, and that is a sign of a wonderful man.
I know our own President described Mr. Mandela as “one of history’s greatest leaders, a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa.” Likewise, the Taoiseach stated that “Mandela has now finished his long walk, but his journey has transformed not only his country, but humanity itself.” 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. I think we saw that today at the funeral, where we had leaders from a wide range of countries. We even saw President Obama shake hands with Fidel Castro’s brother and embrace many other dignitaries. That would not have happened if we were not celebrating the passing of a wonderful man.
I doubt if we will see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. Mar a deirtear as Gaeilge, ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. Ba mhaith liom a rá, ar son mo pháirtí, “ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)
Very few have embodied the spirit, the humanity and the best of mankind more than the late President Nelson Mandela. Few have suffered as much as he has at the hands of an oppressor and had the capacity in his spirit to forgive those who imprisoned him. He certainly personified the best of that line which has been attributed to many but is befitting for him, which is that he was a credit to his race, the human race. He joins an immortal few who have triumphed under huge adversity against enormous odds. He struggled and prevailed in the end. In the history of mankind, hundreds and thousands have triumphed over adversity, but very few have triumphed against such enormous odds and such huge opponents, when they were being judged not on the content of their character, but on the colour of their skin. We had examples in Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Mandela.
There is a sacred line in the American declaration of independence that “all men are created equal”. That is a line echoed in our 1916 Proclamation that the Republic “guarantees equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens”. Citizens like Frederick Douglas dedicated their lives to the abolition of slavery and although Lincoln emancipated the slaves during the course of a civil war where black and white men gave their last full measure for the attainment of that line that all men are created equal, I truly believe that such a pledge has not yet been attained. Perhaps some day it may be within the capacity of humanity to fulfil that sacred pledge. Martin Luther King Jr. was another man who gave his last full measure to attain the rights of others. He did this so that the dream that those, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, could attain their full potential. He did not live to see that dream fulfilled, but he wanted all men to be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin.
President Mandela dedicated his life to the struggle of the African people. He fought against white domination and he also fought to prevent black domination. He was willing to die for his beliefs, for the ideal to see people living together as equals, with equal rights and equal opportunities, in a democratic and free society. That was his achievement in South Africa. It is our cause today and the cause of humanity into the future.
Jillian van Turnout (Independent)
I would like to join in the tributes. As we are more than aware, Nelson Mandela steered South Africa out of apartheid without recourse to widespread bloodshed.
That is a testament to the man he was. He was a man with an unwavering ability to forgive in spite of 27 years of arbitrary imprisonment by a minority white separatist regime. He knew true freedom was multifaceted and recognised from the outset of his presidency that freedom without gender equality and a respect for children’s rights was freedom denied. At the opening of the first parliament in 1994 he declared: “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression … Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.” Further recognising the role of the women of South Africa in bringing down the apartheid regime in 1995 at the time of the drafting of South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, he said, “As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land firm principles upholding the rights of women.”
On that note, I commend the role of Irish women in the fight against apartheid and, in particular, Mary Manning and her fellow Dunnes Stores colleagues who in the mid-1980s went on strike for two and a half years for the right not to handle goods from apartheid South Africa. They were certainly before their time in taking such a principled stand. Nelson Mandela said their stand had helped to sustain him during his imprisonment.
Equality and non-discrimination as the cornerstones of the new post-apartheid South Africa are exemplified by the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, being the first constitution in the world to prohibit expressly discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. South Africa was the fifth country in the world and the first in Africa to legislate for same sex marriage.
As a children’s rights activist, I, of course, was very cognisant of Nelson Mandela’s view of children and their importance in gauging the overall success of a society. He said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” He took political action to improve the lives of women and children. For example, he introduced free prenatal and postnatal care for mothers in the public health system and free care for children up to the age of six years. In the constitution of the Republic of South Africa he ensured children’s rights were clearly articulated. In fact, it is the standard bearer for children’s rights throughout the world. We should all keep in mind that he said: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”
Sean Barett (Independent)
I thank the Leader for arranging this debate. I agree with everything that has been said by previous speakers. We honour an amazing hero for our times. When Nelson Mandela received his honorary degree in TCD, the Public Orator, Professor Luce, started with a quote from Lord Tennyson:
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand…
He described how, bereaved by the death of his father at a relatively young age, Nelson Mandela had been raised in the excellent formal education system in Methodist schools. That branch of Christianity was shown in the way in which Nelson Mandela was such a brilliant orator, a great humanitarian and a humorist. In recent days people have said that when he rang Buckingham Palace, he said, “Hello, Elizabeth, how is the Duke?” He had a warmth that impressed President Obama, President Clinton and everybody who met him. We think of his long spell of imprisonment. As John Luce put it:
During the long harsh term of his imprisonment he never lowered the stubborn guard of the Xhosa boxer, nor did the good hope of the gardener fail him. In the face of heavier oppression he clenched his fist the firmer, and when at last a milder voice was heard, he was quick to proffer the hand of reconciliation. He had known the loneliness of the leader but never failed to smooth the way forward for his followers by the eloquence of his words and the wisdom of his advice.
Eloquence and oratory were restored by Nelson Mandela.
We remember the wonderful gestures, him liaising with the Springboks rugby team which would have been a strong bastion of apartheid and wearing the Springboks shirt for the World Cup final. I think everybody in the world hoped South Africa would beat New Zealand that day and it did. Nelson Mandela wrote to the captain of the team afterwards saying it had been a great day. We all know how sport can bring people together.
I was very pleased earlier when the current officers of the students’ union came for the Order of Business. They liked Nelson Mandela so much that when he was still in jail, they named their building after him. I think in the era when all visiting rugby teams trained in the college park before international matched they asked the Springboks not to train there because it was a racially divided team. We were delighted to honour him and he honoured us by his address on 2 July 1990.
We have had great orators visit the Houses, including John F. Kennedy whose speech is still repeated, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. It is interesting that in the alcove we have pictures of the leaders from the Antipodes who addressed the Oireachtas, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. We realise that sometimes we run ourselves down, but Nelson Mandela built us up and praised us for our complete rejection of the apartheid crime against humanity: “…your support to us for our endeavours to transform South Africa into an united democratic non racial and non sexist country, your love and respect for our movement and the millions of people it represents.” In praising Ireland he said: “We know that your desire that the disenfranchised of our country should be heard in this House and throughout Ireland derives from your determination, born of your experience, that our people, should like yourselves, be free to govern themselves and determine their destiny.” He referred to the Proclamation of 1916 and said, as Senator Jillian van Turnhout has said, that we should cherish all of the people equally. He quoted a former Member of this House who had said: “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart” – it never did with him, which was one of his greatest characteristics – “We are in a struggle because we value life and love all humanity.” He looked forward when people would be free to join any political party and have a multi-party political system. He also praised President F. W. de Klerk who might be forgotten, but it took him and Nelson Mandela to deliver a multiracial and multicultural society which they were able to accomplish. We also should remember Mr. de Klerk today. During Nelson Mandela’s address he said:
We, therefore, salute your sportspeople, especially the rugby players, your writers and artists and Dunnes’ and other workers. They will not be forgotten by the masses of our people.
We thank Nelson Mandela and will not forget him either for a very long time. The then Ceann Comhairle said:
Mr. Mandela, it is now my great privilege to offer you the profound thanks of this House for your most inspiring address which we will long remember. Thank you also for your kind remarks about us.
This was a man who made the world a better place and I am delighted this House is acknowledging him. May he be in his heavenly abode, where I am sure he is already. It is richly deserved.
Susan O’Keefe (Labour)
I thank the Leader for organising these expressions. It is a privilege and an honour to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. We do so as public representatives on behalf of the thousands of Irish people who will be mourning his loss and celebrating the contribution he made to all of our lives and the world.
It is difficult to know where to start in talking about a man like Nelson Mandela, a giant of his time, a man of peace and justice, a man who gave his whole life to his country, for which he would have given his life. Hardly anyone alive in the world could have failed to have known him or recognised his warm smile, his name or known what he stood for. It seems difficult to believe he is officially part of history, that his long walk to freedom is over, that his story in some way has ended.
What a story. A man who made an impact with his words long before social media and the Internet, whose words and deeds made worldwide impact because of their simplicity and truth. Nelson Mandela stood for equality – such a fundamental human right that the world stood with him until his own South African Government caved under the pressure.
It seems difficult to understand in a modern Ireland, in a modern world, that a whole country ran its system deliberately to exclude one group with a particular skin colour, to patronise, bully, destroy, ignore, neglect – and kill if necessary – those who were black or coloured and to allow white people to have the best of everything. South Africa ran its apartheid system in a very public way. There was nothing covert about the signs on buses, in shops and on streets or about the politics, the housing system, the appointments system or the beatings. This racism was sewn into the fabric of South Africa by its own rulers.
Mandela was sentenced to a lifetime in prison for trying to stand up to such a regime. The world held its breath when he walked out of jail in 1990 – 27 years after he had been sent there for political offences, including sabotage. The world held its breath because no one knew what his release might bring. Would it mean the start of the healing process? Would it plunge South Africa backwards? Would Mr. F. W. de Klerk’s decision to release him be well received or lead to civil war? The ANC appointed Mandela as its president and he called on the world to keep up the pressure on the South African Government until equality was achieved, until black and coloured people were free to vote and to live together. Sense prevailed but it took time. The greatest gift of all was Mandela’s own capacity to forgive, reconcile, hold out a hand and show that peace and understanding comes when people hold hands, not when they fight.
Mandela spoke in the Dáil, as Senator Barrett has reminded us, and I quote:
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.
Of course that is what Nelson Mandela will be most remembered for. Also, the first democratic elections with universal suffrage held in 1994 and when he became the first black elected president of South Africa, with a new colourful flag and importantly with Mr. F. W. de Klerk as vice-president, who apologised for the part he played in the apartheid regime by saying:
I apologise … to the millions of South Africans who suffered the wrenching disruption of forced removals … suffered the shame of being arrested for pass law offences … who over the decades and indeed centuries suffered the indignities and humiliation of racial discrimination.
Of course Mandela kept working after the election, and as others have mentioned, he used sport and music to reconcile people by wearing the South African rugby jersey and congratulated those involved on their efforts to bring people together. He never forgot that sport and music were ways to communicate and enjoy life but above all to empower his young nation as it made its way as a black majority rule country and tried to get on with its white citizens who had ruled for so long.
After Mandela retired as President, he convened a group of world leaders, including Mrs. Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu and others. He named the group “The Elders,” and its aim was to find solutions around the globe. He never forgot that he still had something to contribute after all of the years and he had, by then, reached quite an age. He still wanted to make a contribution and showed great selflessness.
I do not forget that Nelson Mandela saw that the apartheid regime existed in a more fundamental way when he spoke about the rights and role of women in a modern democracy. As Senator van Turnhout has said, at the opening of the first parliament in 1994, President Mandela declared:
Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.
In that election the number of women increased from 2.7% to 27% and in the last election 44% of the South African politicians are women. The aim was to achieve 50:50 parity by 2015 so the country has done well.
In 1994, Mandela honoured the 20,000 black women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 to protest at having to carry passes in urban areas. When Mandela became President he named 9 August Women’s Day and a national holiday. He said: “The women were courageous, persistent, enthusiastic, indefatigable and their protest against passes set a standard for anti-government protest that was never equalled.” That is an incredibly generous comment to make because that is what we might say about him.
Finally, we have much to be grateful for. We are grateful for Nelson Mandela’s generosity, perseverance, understanding, good humour and absolute belief in the idea of equality for all. As he said at the end of his speech in Dáil Éireann “Together we will win.” Le chéile, indeed.
David Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
Nelson Mandela was, by any standards, an exceptional human being. He was a towering figure and an inspiration to freedom loving people the world over. I extend to the family of former president Mandela, to President Zuma, to the people of South Africa and to the South African community in Ireland my sincere and heartfelt condolences on the death at Madiba.
Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes and in my view the greatest political leader of our time. He inspired people to see a world beyond themselves and to be brave in the face of often enormous odds. We should never forget the struggle of black South Africans against the apartheid regime and always honour their fight for freedom and dignity. It is also fitting that we remember at this time in this State the brave workers from Dunnes Stores who played their part in the struggle. Those Irish people seized the moral imperative and did what they could to challenge the apartheid regime in South Africa. At a time when the anti-apartheid struggle was, to say the least, controversial in some quarters, the Dunnes Stores’ workers stood firm on their refusal to handle South African goods even in the face of great adversity and sometimes visceral, unjustified condemnation. They were able to carry on because they knew that they had right on their side. Even some of the people who disagreed with them are now praising Mandela and what he achieved in his country. Their stance against the insidious system is testament to the fortitude of ordinary Irish people and their keen sense of justice. Their protest is rightly burned into the collective consciousness of this country. The Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid workers are true friends of the South African people and Mr. Mandela. He stated that their campaign helped sustain him during his imprisonment, as I am sure did all of the support he received from people the world over.
In the hard years when the western powers were against him, when he was vilified as a terrorist and criminal he kept the faith. He showed by perseverance and vision how to build peace out of conflict and a better and more equal future based on fairness and unity out of division. Those are lessons for all of us, particularly for the people of the island of Ireland as we continue the necessary and challenging task of building peace.
Madiba was also a friend of Sinn Féin’s. My comrades who met him on many occasions in South Africa, Ireland and Britain describe him as funny, engaging and modest. He was greatly supportive of the Irish peace process. Along with his ANC comrades, he was loyal to those, including Irish republicans, who had helped the ANC in very difficult times. His outreach to Sinn Féin in the 1990s was resisted stridently by the British Government and criticised by sections of the media here in this State. I am very proud of my party’s decades long relationship with former president Madiba and the ANC. It is a great honour that the Sinn Féin president, Deputy Gerry Adams, was invited by the ANC to attend the funeral and services of remembrance when they bid farewell to Madiba.
Madiba’s courage, humanity and decency has inspired us all. The issues he struggled against have not disappeared. Therefore, we should honour his memory by speaking out and struggling against oppression, racism and poverty whenever we discover it. That would be a fitting tribute to such a brave and noble man. Madiba shall be missed by freedom loving people around the world but his legacy shall live on. Madiba shall continue to inspire and encourage oppressed people around the world.
Caít Keane (Fine Gael)
I have not had time to prepare many words but I cannot walk out of the tributes. I have sat in the Chamber for six hours but I shall make a special effort to say a few words about such a special man who was a global symbol. Mandela is a global symbol of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
His heroic life is an example not just to everyone in his country, but in ours. He had a remarkable influence across the globe. More than 100 dignitaries from various countries attended his memorial. He not only earned his place in history, but showed us all the way by leading by example.
Like others, I pay tribute to the Dunnes Stores workers who put their jobs on the line to ensure that the part against apartheid that he led was honoured and recognised throughout the world.
He led a life unlike any other. He was most influential and courageous, one of the greatest human being ever, and worked tirelessly for peace, although not only in his own country. The way he went about achieving it was an example to all. His sense of decency in his work was profound. He fought for freedom against discrimination for all, especially discrimination against women, as mentioned by Senator van Turnhout and others.
His great sense of forgiveness is an example that we can all take. “Forgiveness” was on his tongue at every opportunity. He triumphed against adversity. I listened to a 25 or 26 year old being interviewed, who mentioned that Mandela had been in prison for longer than that person had been on the Earth, thinking that that was a long time. This is what Mandela went through for peace. It was not easy for him, but when he came out he was about to stretch out his hands in openness and forgiveness to work towards peace.
I thank Nelson Mandela for giving himself to us. He led by his words and his actions. He inspired so many. May he rest in peace. He was a great statesman and man of generosity. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Paul Bradford (Fine Gael)
I was privileged to be a Member of the Lower House when, in July 1990, Nelson Mandela walked down the steps of the Chamber of Dáil Éireann to address its Members some short months after he walked out of his prison cell. It is marvellous to reflect on his journey from student to lawyer to agitator to prisoner to statesman, peacemaker and humanitarian. Nelson Mandela has rightly been classified as a statesman and visionary. He certainly lived up to his reputation, but we must reflect on the journey that he was forced to undertake and ask what we can learn from it.
This is a week of tributes, but when people read the record and history books, we will need to accept in embarrassment that a different view of Nelson Mandela was expressed many times. Perhaps it is not only the body politic that changed its opinion of Nelson Mandela. Perhaps he recognised that his ideas and approach also needed to change. Above all else, he demonstrated that reconciliation and a willingness and ability to let the past be the past formed the only way forward in disputes, be they domestic or international. His reaching out to the minority and previously repressive community in South Africa must be an example to all of us.
Mention has been made of his comments on the politics of this land, his advice on the conflict in Northern Ireland and his connection with some of this island’s political figures. I do not want to be in any way disrespectful, but it must be stated that no one on either side of the political divide could in any way compare to Nelson Mandela. Such people have neither the generosity nor spirit of humanity that he brought to the table of conflict resolution.
We must ask how we can progress as a nation unless we take on board what Nelson Mandela stated about forgiveness and reconciliation. In the past ten days, we tragically saw an attempt to rewrite some of the history of this land. We should never rewrite history, but learn from it and move on.
There is much that is good of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy that we can take on board. Above all else, we should recognise that his doctrine of reconciliation, forgiveness and willingness to reach out to the opponent must be at the core of any formula for long-term peace and reconciliation.
We have been discussing a truth and reconciliation commission on this island. In this respect, we can learn from what happened in South Africa. It cannot solve all of the problems or wash away all of the pain and suffering, but it can play a major part in allowing people to reflect on the past while building towards a better future.
I thank the Leader to the opportunity to say a few words of tribute to Nelson Mandela. He will always be considered a statesman of the highest standing. I hope that we can learn from his example of peace and good will. Every parliament needs to reflect upon and learn from it.
Michael Mullins (Fine Gael)
I thank the Leader for organising this opportunity to say a few words. It is appropriate that, on a day when world leaders gathered in Johannesburg to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, the Seanad should have an opportunity to reflect on the life of an amazing human being, a description that has been said and written in recent days.
Nelson Mandela has been described as a giant of history, the last great liberator of the 20th century, a unique political figure at a unique moment in history and not only the father of democracy in South Africa, but also a symbol of democracy throughout the world.
Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of apartheid to stand in the way of the liberation of his people. His activities saw him imprisoned in 1962 and he was to spend the next 27 years incarcerated by a brutal regime.
He had much to show from his time in prison. He wrote many books while there and his main place of imprisonment came to be known as a place of learning. Songs and poems were written about him and the call for freedom was heard around the world and responded to by many. I, too, pay tribute to the Dunnes Stores workers who did much to highlight the injustice of apartheid and brought the case of Mandela to the attention of Irish people and people throughout the world.
Under President de Klerk he was released from prison in 1990, he was then returned as leader of the ANC and fought on for freedom. It is hard to comprehend that within three years of his release he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with de Klerk. Mandela’s election as President of South Africa in 1994 was a victory for equality and a triumph for peace. The world rejoiced that one man, who stood firm and worked with his enemies, could make a difference to millions of people.
Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as a man of peace, humanity and humility who saw good in everyone, was prepared to forgive his enemies and worked to achieve peace, equality and freedom. He made the quotes over the course his life and they illustrate the kind of person that Nelson Mandela was. He said: “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished,” and “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” He also said: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
He also said, “Freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and on the streets.” In a few days Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest among his own people. He was a colossus on the world stage, he was universally loved. His legacy will live on and must be built upon. The challenge for all political leaders is to follow the Mandela example and work together to bring peace, justice and human rights to the parts of the world that are currently ravaged by war and oppression.
I conclude with a short quotation from Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Nelson Mandela in the 2009 film “Invictus”, who said in recent days:
Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honour, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve – a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of human kind.
As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go. Mandela may no longer be with us but his journey continues on with me and with all of us”.
May his gentle soul rest in peace.
Paschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
I was listening today to Ronan Collins on Radio 1 who dug back into the archives to play a song by one of my neighbours from Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim, Eleanor Shanley, when she was with De Danann, called simply, “Mandela”. He remarked that it was one of the earliest manifestations of the commitment that Irish people had at a time when Mandela was still in jail and, as Senator Mullins has said, along with the Dunnes Stores workers to highlight the inequities in the apartheid system. The Senator also referred to the film “Invictus”. That was to be the main theme of my contribution in the short time available to us. I re-echo the comments made and thank the Leader for affording us this opportunity.
The legacy of Nelson Mandela has been mentioned. I suggest one of greatest legacies was the manner in which he used sport to unify a divided nation in the immediate aftermath of his release from prison and his election as President and the manner in which he was able to bring the indigenous native population of South Africa with him in a sport they absolutely hated. It is hard, at this remove, to understand the hatred the native South Africans had for rugby and the Springbok team which they saw as the epitome of white supremacy. In fact the rugby stadia were divided during the apartheid era when there were special reserved places for the African population and for the white population.
Irrespective of the opposition that the Springboks faced, the native population always cheered for the opposition. They did not care who they were, such was the hatred they had for the Springboks. While Nelson Mandela decided to use sport and rugby, which was the bastion of white domination in South Africa, as a tool to effect a form of reconciliation among the population of South Africa, he knew exactly what he was doing. He called on the then captain of the Springboks, Francois Pienaar, to get him on side and he encouraged him to learn the new South African anthem rather than the Springboks anthem which was identified with white supremacy and the apartheid era. It was a great tribute to the rugby team at that time that it learned the anthem and sang it at the World Cup in 1995. When Mandela appeared in the stadium wearing the Springboks cap and the Springboks jersey the impact on the native South African population was immediate and they were in a state of shock. He realised exactly what he was doing and he saw that sport could be a great unifying force. From that period on, when certain elements of the white population were arming themselves for an imminent civil war he used sport in such an effective way.
When we reflect on the contribution that we on this island can make to other countries in terms of the peace process I think of the contribution that Mandela made in the area of sport. For example, if we had a one island soccer team here, let us think of the unifying force that could be in the medium to long term in the same way as rugby. Practically all other individual and team sports here are on an all-island basis. It is sad that the Northern Ireland soccer team, in the main, is supported by one side of the community only. That will be a continuing obstacle to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland while that pertains. I know that these are revolutionary words but it is not today or yesterday that I have advocated an all-island team. Why would the people of this island not come together and support a team dressed in a green jersey? It is done in rugby, cricket, golf and in all team and individual sports. It is done in boxing, which is a working class sport. One has only to think of the many great sporting heroes that have come out of Belfast from both sides of the community. If there was to be a recurring theme of the legacy of Nelson Mandela it would be the way in which he used sport as a unifying force. I wish that would happen here. Maybe, just maybe, that day will come and then, truly we could say that Manela’s legacy has had a resonance in this country.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis an gCeannaire as ucht an deis seo a thabhairt dúinn labhairt ar Nelson Mandela, Madiba, an ceannaire iontach domhanda atá imithe ar shlí na fírinne. Guímid suaimhneas síoraí ar a anam agus gach rath ar a chlann, ar mhuintir na hAfraice Theas agus ar dhuine ar bith ar fud an domhain a raibh baint acu leis.
There is no point in me reiterating some of the incredible eulogies that have been given to Nelson Mandela but, perhaps, I can give a different perspective on some of his life and some of his work. Much of the discourse I have heard, particularly in the Houses and in the Irish media, has tended to focus on when Mandela left prison and to forget about much of what happened while he was in prison and before that. He was a freedom fighter and he would say that himself but he was demonised by many political parties and leaders for many a long year when in prison and before that. It is right that we recognise the role he played in bringing about peace in South Africa but we need to look at where he came from and the system in which he lived. It was an apartheid system. I note my own leader in the other House said that the injustice of apartheid was an obscenity, an obscenity to humanity. In terms of our own experience – he was speaking about the Six Counties – Vorster, an apartheid minister in South Africa once said, famously, that he would swap all of the apartheid laws for one clause of the infamous Special Powers Act in the North.
We have to remember that the ANC, of which Mandela was a leader, was banned, censored and political actions were quashed. That is the reason he had to be so strong in his leadership. In the 1950s and early 1960s ANC activists debated how best to challenge the state. Speaking of that period, Manela said: “We have always believed in non-violence as a tactic. Where conditions demanded that we should use non-violence we would do so, where the conditions demanded that we should depart from non-violence we would do so”. He also came to the opinion that the ANC had no alternative to armed and violent resistance. They were his words, not mine.
In 1961 with Walter Sisulu and Joe Slovo, Madeba co-founded and became chairman of the armed organisation Umkhonto we Sizwe, “Spear of the Nation”, known as MK. MK engaged in military actions against the South African regime through the period of his imprisonment and following his release. It would be interesting if we could get Madeba’s thoughts on the Irish situation at present. I believe many of the South African politicians have a much better understanding of the complications and the situation in the North than many of our Irish politicians.
I do not say that with any disrespect for my colleagues, but I believe Mandela’s reading of the situation was shown in the way he supported the hunger strikers when in his cell on Robben Island and marked on his calendar, on 5 May 1981, that IRA martyr Bobby Sands had died. He was not as quick as some to jump to conclusions or to judge members of my party or others involved with the republican struggle, for example. He also pushed for peace and reconciliation. That is shown in the link the ANC has traditionally had with Sinn Féin. It is a great honour for us to have, at every Ard-Fheis, a speaker from the ANC. It is shown also by the fact that my party leader, Deputy Gerry Adams, has been invited to the full funeral in South Africa. He is going to attend on our behalf.
It is time to end the revisionism associated with what is taking place. We need to debate the past, but we need to debate all aspects of it. It is hypocritical of the Irish establishment to eulogise Nelson Mandela on the one hand while, on the other, demonising people on this island who fought in the republican struggle.
John Gilroy (Labour)
Deputy Adams is no Nelson Mandela.
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
I have not said that and I do not believe Deputy Adams would say that himself. Nelson Mandela would not have said it either.
Jogn Gilroy (Labour)
He certainly would not have.
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
He would say that peace can be built out of conflict and that this needs to be done. We need a similar process to that associated with the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa. It is important to consider what Madiba would say to us in Ireland today and what guidance he would give to us as politicians dealing with injustices that are happening. It is good to remember the wonderful example of the Dunnes Stores workers but my recollection of their three years of protest is that they did not receive full support from across the political spectrum in their fight. However, they won eventually.
A number of issues need to be raised today that we should be considering. For example, we must ask whether there is a need for the Government to consider an embargo similar to the Dunnes Stores workers’ embargo on goods from the occupied territories in Palestine. Is there too much racism on our island in the form of statements directed at and actions taken against Travellers, the Roma community and other ethnic minorities?
Today is International Human Rights Day. The Irish Refugee Council launched an important report on direct provisions this morning called “direct provisions: Framing an alternative reception system for people seeking international protection”. It is scandalous that there are still people in direct provision who have come here looking for asylum from their home countries. Many of them have fled from terrible circumstances. We are actually putting them up in appalling conditions, which have been criticised by eminent figures. Former Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has been highly critical of the lack of independent oversight of the system and has stated that the treatment of asylum seekers may well breach international human rights conventions. Retired Supreme Court judge Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness has warned that a future Irish Government could have to issue a State apology to and compensate former residents, particularly children. As long as such events are occurring on our watch on this island, we cannot say we are honouring the memory of Madiba, an extraordinary man. He would be asking us to live up to our human rights obligations, particularly regarding the refugee convention and the EU directive on reception conditions.
We must all agree that Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational figure. However, we should not try to be too selective in analysing his legacy. He came from a very challenging set of circumstances. He came through those circumstances to be a great peacemaker. It is incumbent on all of us to take inspiration from him to work for peace, human rights, fairness and equality and to provide a complete and true republic for people to live in. I noted Senator Mooney’s comments on an all-Ireland football team. I would like to see a day on which we could work towards a united Ireland in which everybody on the island is treated equally and fairly, irrespective of religion, background, colour or race.
Ba iontach go deo an duine é Madiba. When he was interviewed on coming out of prison, he was asked about having to sit down with F. W. de Klerk to work towards a compromise in order to try to overcome the apartheid regime and whether he had not felt this was impossible. His answer was that if the people talking about compromise came to the table with an open mind looking for a compromise, anything would be possible. That is true of the circumstances I have mentioned.
Tá mé buíoch as an deis ráiteas a dhéanamh ar an ábhar iontach tábhachtach seo. Ba iontach go deo an inspioráid é Mandela. Mairfidh sé go deo inár gcuimhne agus i gcuimhne na ndaoine. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Paddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
It is only right that we mark this occasion today. I, too, wish to be associated with the tributes to the late Nelson Mandela. He was one of history’s greatest leaders. His name was synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the world. He was committed to people and motivated by deep humanity and compassion that was delivered with modesty and simplicity.
I had the great privilege of being in South Africa in 1994 for the first democratic elections. I was very struck by the presence of Mr. Nelson Mandela and the respect that existed for him during those elections. I reported afterwards to the European Commission that, from what we could see, the elections were fair and free. That was mainly due to the great respect for Nelson Mandela and the role played by a very brave man, Mr. F. W. de Klerk.
Mr. Mandela was asked how he got £20,000 from Ms Margaret Thatcher for his foundation and he replied that he asked for it and got it. He said that if one does not ask, one will not get. It is quite obvious that Nelson Mandela had the art of both asking and forgiving.
It is through the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Mr. Mandela’s legacy will continue to affect future generations. Wherever there is conflict and where victims and their oppressors seek a way forward, such a commission is a gift to the world of politics, a gift Ireland will not forget following the Troubles and post-Good Friday Agreement reconstruction. Mr. Mandela has played a very important part in the affairs of our island and he will play an important part in the future. He is a huge icon in politics throughout the world. He was an amazing man who, on his death at the age of 95, had the young people of the world in mourning for him. That says so much about him. I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the Mandela family.
When is it proposed to sit again?
Maurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.