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Mandela's personal plea to Haughey over South Africa sanctions


Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Dublin Castle with Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1990

Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Dublin Castle with Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1990

Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Dublin Castle with Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1990

Nelson Mandela personally pleaded with Taoiseach Charles Haughey to ensure Ireland opposed the removal of economic sanctions on South Africa until full political reforms and the abolition of apartheid had been achieved.

Confidential papers, released as part of the 1990 State Archive, revealed the newly freed African National Congress (ANC) leader was deeply grateful for the role Ireland had played in opposing the apartheid regime.

On December 6, 1990, Mandela personally wrote to Haughey to seek his ongoing support at EU level.

"My humble request to you, Mr Prime Minister, and to the [EU] summit meeting, is that you postpone any decision on the [sanctions] matter until early in the New Year," he wrote.

"The summit meeting could perhaps find it within its power to direct a later meeting of the [EU Council of] Foreign Ministers in February or March to consider this issue and take its decisions.

"The reality we face is that, despite all our efforts, we have as yet not even succeeded to remove the obstacles to negotiations as visualised in the UN General Assembly declaration on South Africa adopted last December.

"As a result of this, the overwhelming majority of political prisoners (have) as yet not been released and people continue to be detained without trial to mention only two of the obstacles."

Mandela said that exploratory talks on a new constitution had been outlined in August, but had not yet been implemented.

"President de Klerk has undertaken the security legislation which impedes free political activity as well as other apartheid laws such as the group areas and the lands acts (which) will be repealed when the South African parliament convenes at the beginning of February."

Mandela said sanctions from the international community continue to exert pressure on the South African regime.

"The international community continues to exert pressure for faster movement forward towards the end of the apartheid system while this community takes all necessary action to reinforce the peace process which is leading to the democratic transformation of our country."

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Mandela added that he was eager to avoid conflicting positions from the international community and, in particular, from Europe.

Within the EU, countries like Ireland and Denmark wanted sanctions to remain in place against South Africa until specific democratic goals had been achieved.

Other countries, including the UK, were pressing for sanctions to be lifted given the progress already achieved in talks between the South African regime and the ANC.

Mandela had visited Ireland in July 1990 and was awarded the Freedom of Dublin. The ANC leader was greeted by huge crowds - and specifically mentioned the Dublin workers who had refused to handle South African produce in protest at the policies of the apartheid regime.

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