Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has paid tribute to Nelson Mandela's moral leadership which gave the people of South Africa the courage to move forward from apartheid.
Speaking to Independent.ie after delivering the opening address to the first ever Christian, Muslim and Jewish conference on dialogue in Ireland at the Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin, the Archbishop described Mr Mandela as an "extraordinary person and statesman."
He said he had brought about a huge transition in a difficult economic situation from the structured separation of people under apartheid.
The Archbisop met Nelson Mandela shortly after he was released from prison in 1990 as part of a church delegation.
"He was working out of two or three rooms in a rented building. He was there with Walter Sisulu, a friend of his in the ANC. The amazing thing was the simplicity of the setting - it was the simplicity which belongs to the great."
As Mandela said his farewells to the delegation, he came over to Diarmuid Martin, even though he was the junior member of the delegation, and thanked him. "He was very pleased to know I was Irish."
Dr Martin met him subsequently in more formal settings when Mr Mandela was president of South Africa.
The Archbishop said Nelson Mandela's message to Ireland today is that there is only one way to bring about harmony and collaboration and that is by bringing people together and rising above the narrow and the tribal, in the negative sense."