Dublin, Ireland – Following the death of Nelson Mandela last December, this tribute was written to him by Ms Michelle Mulherin TD. As one of the AWEPA Irish Section‘s youngest members, the tribute shows how deeply Mandela’s influence was felt and how it inspired new generations of politicians to work for human rights and peace – in Ireland, Africa and beyond.
MANDELA became a household name long before his release from prison in his native South Africa in February 1990 after 27 years of incarceration.
Anti-apartheid movements around the globe organised protests in almost every major city, including Dublin. When he was released, an electronic banner announced the news from Liberty Hall, then the tallest building in Ireland. Celebrations followed everywhere. In July the same year, he visited Ireland. Thousands turned out to see and hear him at the Mansion House in Dublin.
A man from another century was embraced by a generation that was not even born when he was sent to prison in the sixties for opposing the oppressive minority rule in South Africa that practised apartheid. The next generation celebrated his release as a great triumph over tyranny and an endorsement of human rights and freedom. His birthday became a Wembley stadium affair attended by a Prince and Princess. It is now an international day of good will.
This new generation adopted him and claimed him as their own celebrity grandfather. Major world political figures, film stars and super models made pilgrimage to his home. They found in Mandela a humility and genuineness that bridged a gap between the mucky world of politics and down to earth reality, with no trace of bitterness for the wrongs he suffered in his long Road to Freedom.
There is so much more that can be said about the man; a politician, a statesman, a Nobel Price winner among many other awards -an icon. And so much has been said and movies made of his story; much more will continue, no doubt to be written and said. But the late and former President Nelson Mandela was more. As the New Yorker put it, he became a symbol of righteousness and reconciliation.
It is perhaps through the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Nelson Mandela’s legacy will continue to impact future generations wherever there is conflict, precisely where victims and their oppressors seek a way forward. It’s a gift to the world of politics. A gift Ireland will not forget following the troubles and post Good Friday Agreement reconstruction.
One last thing needs to be said about Mandiba’s struggle for freedom. Although the struggle was externally against the visible colonial oppressor, there was also an internal one, an invisible and hidden one: a darkness that always threatens to repossess Africa’s leadership and claim it forever as the dark continent. Mandela has become the ray of hope that tyranny will not be the only expectation of that great continent. Until Mandela, there had not emerged a name out of Africa that could be such a cause for international celebration. Mandela became the argument against the one brush that would paint the continent’s leadership as corrupt.
Let us mourn a great man’s passing, but let us celebrate a life well lived and loved by so many because Nelson Mandela kept it real.