President Michael D. Higgins: 'Nelson Mandela is one of history’s greatest leaders'

Main player: President Higgins

President Michael D. Higgins as paid tribute to the late former South African president Nelson Mandela.

President Higgins said this evening, "It is with deepest sadness that I have learned of the death of former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. On behalf of the people of Ireland, I offer sincere condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.

"Nelson Mandela is one of history’s greatest leaders; a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa and led the nation into a new and democratic age.

"The immense moral force that was Nelson Mandela was built on his commitment to all of the people, and was motivated by a deep humanity and limitless compassion that was delivered with modesty and a powerful simplicity," he continued.

"His journey to the ending of apartheid and into a new chapter in South African and world history was long, hazardous and involved considerable self-sacrifice."

President Higgins also mentioned Nelson Mandela's years in captivity;

"Despite incredible obstacles and numerous sanctions, including many years of imprisonment and isolation, he never lost belief or gave up fighting for the equal rights of all South African citizens. He inspired so many people at home and abroad who shared in his dream, and who chose to walk beside him on that long and difficult road to freedom.

"He had a gift of extraordinary grace and his life was completely and unselfishly given over to his people and future generations. His tenacity, bravery and extraordinary vision bore fruit for all when he saw his dream of a fair and united South Africa become, within his lifetime, a wonderful reality," he said.

"During the course of his presidency, Nelson Mandela continued his work of building unity through reconciliation by uniting socially segregated racial groups. He unceasingly toiled to remove the deep rooted social and economic inequalities which remained as challenges in South Africa, and was a tower of inspiration for all those struggling for justice all over the world."

He added;

"Nelson Mandela will be remembered for all time as one of the greatest and most heroic leaders the world has ever known; a brave campaigner who changed the course of history; and a symbol of hope and inspiration to those who continue to struggle against oppression and domination.

"Lives around the world have been changed forever, and hopes kindled, by his transformational life and enduring legacy".