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Saturday 18 November 2017

Melanie Verwoerd denies she’s quitting Ireland for South Africa

Melanie Verwoerd with Gerry Ryan shortly before the radio broadcaster's death in April 2010
Melanie Verwoerd with Gerry Ryan shortly before the radio broadcaster's death in April 2010
Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

MELANIE Verwoerd has vowed to remain in Ireland and wants to get on with her life as normal.

The 46-year-old spoke to deny reports she was leaving the country to return to her native South Africa.

Thrown into the spotlight because of her relationship with the late Gerry Ryan, the mother-of-two came under fire from some of the late broadcaster's friends for including details of his last days in memoir When We Dance.

However the former South African ambassador remained adamant that she would be staying in Ireland and cited the warmth of the Irish public to the autobiography as one of the reasons keeping her here.

“I don't run away from things. I'm not leaving Ireland nor have I any plans to leave Ireland, if at all I ever leave Ireland, it will be for something else, because there is something else I go towards, not because I am running away from anything,” Melanie told the Herald.

The charity worker said she was speaking to clear up the confusion caused by a radio interview she gave on a short promotional tour of South Africa to promote her memoir.

“I repeatedly stated in interviews in South Africa how Ireland is now also home, and that I love the country and remain very touched by the enormous generosity and kindness showed by ordinary Irish people to me,” she said.

In Ireland for 11 years, and an Irish citizen since 2011, Melanie said she had been “repeatedly” asked in South Africa if she would ever return to South Africa.

“I said yes of course. I would love to go back to South Africa at some point, because I don't want to grow old in Ireland, but I don't know when.

“My reasons for being here are that I love Ireland, secondly because my children are here and thirdly because I have met incredible compassion from ordinary people in Ireland.

“I do go to South Africa frequently but I have two homes: South Africa is one and Ireland is the other, and I live in the Irish one at the moment,” she said.

The mother-of-two said she’s very happy with reaction to her memoir in South Africa, where it was recently published by Cape Town-based publishing house NB Publishers in a new jacket, and a new title, The Verwoerd Who Toyi-Toyied, a reference to the stomping feet dance used in political protests.

“It has only been out two weeks and has been incredibly well received. There has been a focus on my work, and not my private life,” she said of the book, which covers her upbringing in South Africa, involvement with the ANC and election as the youngest woman MP in the 1994 parliament.

Gerry Ryan features only in the later stages of the book.

An author profile on her South African publisher's website outlined the many turns and drama of her young life, growing up in South Africa.

“When Melanie Verwoerd was a pupil at Bloemhof Girls in Stellenbosch dedicating every spare hour to ballet, no one would have predicted that she would one day be an international figure.

“She married the grandson of HF Verwoerd at 19, and a few years later was disowned and forbidden in the Verwoerd family home – she had been elected ANC chair in Stellenbosch and former friends crossed the road when she approached.

“But it was not only in South Africa that Melanie attracted trouble. In Ireland, she found new love with Gerry, “a controversial broadcaster. And he was still formally married to someone else,” the publisher’s website said.

Speaking from her home in Dublin, Melanie said she had “no regrets” about penning the autobiography but now wanted to move forward with her life.

“I wrote the book to honour a promise I made to Gerry (Ryan). I have done that. Now I want to get back on with my life.

“I don't have any definite plans at the moment but I do want to get back to what I do enjoy doing, which is to work for the developing world and developing issues.

“I really want to contribute positively to life,” she said.

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