Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Nelson Mandela: There are parallels and differences between peace processes in Ireland and South Africa

Huge global tributes have been paid to Nelson Mandela who passed away last week aged 95
Huge global tributes have been paid to Nelson Mandela who passed away last week aged 95

Huge global tributes have been paid to Nelson Mandela.

Endorsements of his legacy have transcended both ideological and political differences. Importantly that unanimity found expression across the political divide here.

Mandela proved that vision and hope are all conquering. He became a beacon for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Many eulogies have spoken of his remarkable qualities; but how can we translate that acclaim into making a real difference in this society?

There are parallels and differences between how the political and peace processes evolved in Ireland and South Africa. However Mandela’s values are transferrable.

He emphasised that past enemies should make peace; the need for respect and generosity; and he courageously championed reconciliation and forgiveness.

These were difficult things to achieve in South Africa and they remain deeply challenging for us. The hurt and fear caused by endemic sectarianism and political conflict are enormous.

The legacy of our past is now destabilising present politics and particularly overshadows the Haass talks.

Polarisation and political paralysis has become a new status quo. That cannot be an option. It doesn’t reflect the needs of wider society.

Our collective past means we all have much to forgive and have forgiven. Our future must be based upon reconciliation. The next generation deserves nothing less.

The values synonymous with Mandela provide us with a way forward. Let us take inspiration from his wisdom, and challenge ourselves.

An initiative of common acknowledgement by all sides, of the hurt and injustices caused by and to each other would introduce a peaceful dynamic to the peace process. It could make a seminal contribution to healing and create new opportunities for friendship, trust and forgiveness to grow.

We too can have a rainbow future if we’re willing to set aside old mind-sets and finally decide to make friends with our enemies.

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