Tuesday 12 December 2017

Mayors past and present join queue to sign book of condolence

Alan O'Keeffe

MOST never met him but that didn't mean he didn't inspire them.

People who were touched by Nelson Mandela's achievements began arriving to sign a book of condolence at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday.

Their written comments beside their signatures referred to his greatness, his courage, and his ability to inspire people in all parts of the world.

Among the first to sign the book along with Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn were former mayors Ben Briscoe and Sean Haughey.

Mr Briscoe (79) was mayor in 1988 when Mandela was granted freedom of the city while still a prisoner in South Africa.

"All the leaders on the city council agreed although there were a few members who had some reservations.

"I remember Taoiseach Charles Haughey saying the Department of Foreign Affairs might have reservations but he said it was a matter for the council members," said Mr Briscoe.

Mr Briscoe said the British government and Margaret Thatcher had an entirely different attitude and were against embargoes being imposed on the South African regime.

Mandela said later that the news of Dublin giving him the freedom of the city while he was still in prison gave him a great boost. Mr Mandela also saluted Dublin checkout assistant Mary Manning and the other Dunnes Stores workers who refused to sell South African fruit as a protest against apartheid, said the former TD.

Sean Haughey was mayor when Mr Mandela travelled to Dublin months after his release from prison.

Mr Haughey said it was July 1, 1990, and there was "a carnival atmosphere" in the city. Mr Mandela signed the Roll of Honour at the Mansion House in the afternoon and the Irish football team got a huge welcome back from the Italia '90 World Cup that evening.

Both crowds merged and many who had chanted "Ooh, Ahh, Paul McGrath" for the brilliant Irish defender began a new, humorous chant "Ooh, Ahh, Paul McGrath's Da!"

Mr Quinn said Mandela made a huge impact on his release from prison when he showed "such dignity, poise and calm and called for reconciliation between whites and blacks in South Africa".

"Mandela certainly influenced our own peace process in Northern Ireland," he said.

Large numbers of people are expected to sign the book of condolences at the Mansion House today and tomorrow between 10am and 5pm. The book will be moved to the South African ambassador's residence at 20a Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, on Monday and will be available until Friday between 10am and 3pm.

Among the members of the public who signed the book yesterday were Susan Delaney (55) from Monkstown, Dublin, and her daughter Laura Ni Chroimin (26). Ms Delaney said: "I will never forget seeing his prison cell on Robben Island in South Africa. It was an extraordinary moment in my life."

Laura later worked in South Africa and felt the deep reverence that the people had for their leader.

"I've had a quotation of his on my bedroom wall. He was the one person in the world I would most like to have met," said Ms Ni Chroimin.

Retired engineer Denis Nolan (61) of Shankill, Dublin, signed the book because "the man was a legend and did so much in his lifetime".

"He connected with the people of a lot of countries around the world," he said.

Irish Independent

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