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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Apartheid sparked row over tug-of-war funding


Nelson Mandela with his wife Winnie with then Taoiseach Charles Haughey
Nelson Mandela with his wife Winnie with then Taoiseach Charles Haughey

Chris Parkin

IRELAND showed its support for Nelson Mandela by stepping up pressure on South Africa in a number of sporting fields, ranging from international rugby contests to a tug-of-war contest.

Official government papers for 1983 reveal the measure of opposition here to what had been going on in Mr Mandela's homeland for so long.

On the rugby front, Dublin rejected an all-expenses-paid invitation from the head of the South African Rugby Board Dr Danie Craven to a rugby media conference in Cape Town.

And President Dr Patrick Hillery thought long and hard about attending international fixtures at Lansdowne Road, following a controversial Irish rugby tour of South Africa two years previously that went ahead in direct contravention of government wishes.

There were also rows centring on Irish participation in a school football tournament in Belgium because of the involvement of a team from Bophuthatswna, then an allegedly independent part of South Africa.

The tug-of-war affair developed when that sport's government grant came under threat because individuals from here had taken part in the World Championships in South Africa the previous year.

The government later accepted there had been no formal Irish presence at the event and the possibility of losing government cash was withdrawn.

Following his 1990 visit, Nelson Mandela returned here to be conferred with an honorary Trinity College doctorate in 1998 and again five years later for the opening ceremony of the special Olympics.

Irish Independent

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