Sunday 24 September 2017

The day Nelson's clarion call to the world rang out from the Dail

Jerome Reilly recalls the events of that summer 23 years ago when the Mandelas paid a visit

HISTORIC MOMENT: Nelson Mandela addresses the Dail during his visit in 1990
HISTORIC MOMENT: Nelson Mandela addresses the Dail during his visit in 1990
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

It was 23 years ago in Dublin and even then the 71-year-old Nelson Mandela was showing the physical frailty wrought by age and 27 years spent in prison.

Yet though his body was already frail, his voice was strong as he invoked the words of WB Yeats to warn, "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart," and told the Dail how he found a kindred spirit with the Irish because both his people and ours had suffered at the hands of colonial rule for centuries.

It was an extraordinary summer. As Nelson Mandela arrived the country was en fete. The World Cup heroics at Italia 90 had buoyed the national mood – and then there was the arrival of the deputy leader of the once outlawed African National Congress who had been awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin while he still languished behind prison walls.

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