Controversy has erupted after a town councillor said that Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be better off doing something for his own people in South Africa than coming to Ballina, Co Mayo, to "endorse" a new Mary Robinson Centre in the town.
"He and other members of the South African elite have let their own people down – and I'm including Nelson Mandela in this, although I know you are not meant to say anything about him because he's a living saint," Councillor Gerry Ginty told the Sunday Independent yesterday.
Councillor Ginty first sparked controversy at last week's meeting of Ballina town council when officials were asked what protocols would be put in place for the proposed visit of Archbishop Tutu and former President Mary Robinson for the opening of a commemorative centre in the ex-president's former home in the town.
Mr Ginty told the Sunday Independent that he had visited South Africa and was astonished at how little had changed since the "black elite" had taken over.
"It's a country where it isn't safe for a woman, whether black or white, to put her nose out of doors once it gets dark and there is corruption everywhere," he said. "It seems strange to me that Archbishop Tutu should be coming here to tell us how to run our affairs."
He said that once it gets dark in Cape Town the streets are empty and shops are like fortresses.
"I supported the anti-apartheid movement – but the only thing that has changed in South Africa is that a small elite of black men, mostly from the ANC, are living in palaces while the shanty towns are still the same," he said.
"It's not real liberty, to my mind they have let their own people down," said the independent councillor.