The late Nelson Mandela had an enormous influence on the way our Peace Process developed, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said.
Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland earlier today, Mr Gilmore recalled Nelson Mandela speaking in the Dail in July in 1990, just months after the leader was released.
“He had a great presence and I remember him quoting Yeats ‘Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart’.”
Mr Gilmore said he talked about how it was necessary to make peace with those who oppressed him and to never copy “the barbarity of his oppressors”.
“He spoke in such a tone of reconciliation.
“He did of course talk about the huge oppression that apartheid brought….segregation, official racial discrimination of his people.
“He spoke of addressing huge problems of hunger and poverty and disease.”
Mr Gilmore said when Nelson Mandela spoke in the Dail in 1990, four years before the ceasefire in Northern Ireland was to take place, he had the ears of those who were engaged in violence in the Troubles.
“Those who were engaged in violence on this island at that time, I think, did take a lesson from him.”
“I think he had an enormous influence in the way our own peace process developed.”
Mr Gilmore said Mandela has left a legacy behind, and it is now the responsibility of world leaders to carry on that legacy.
“I think he was probably the most significant world figure of our lifetime.”
“He transformed South Africa. He literally changed the world…the way he brought about change in South Africa also influenced people throughout the world.”
“This man worked for a changed world. It is still unfinished business. There are still 800 million people in the world who are hungry.”
“What he would want is that all of us, particularly the international community, will continue to work for that.”