Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Nelson Mandela dead: Northern Ireland's politicians pay tribute to late leader and statesman

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams pictured with Nelson Mandela
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams pictured in the 1990s with Nelson Mandela

Northern Ireland's political leaders have paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, who has died at the age of 95.

First Minister Peter Robinson - who met the world-renowned leader on two occasions - said he was a man with "considerable humility and charisma".

"We have known for some time that he was ill, nonetheless, it still comes as a great shock to lose such an inspirational man and a massive figure in terms of world politics," he said.

"He did not see himself in terms of celebrity yet barely anyone throughout the world would not recognise his name and that is no small part because of his unique ability to connect personally with people."

Deputy First Minister said Nelson Mandela had "earned respect as an ambassador for peace, human rights and democracy across the globe" though his "humility, strong negotiation skills and desire for justice".

"I offer my heartfelt sympathies to his family at this difficult time. I was honoured to meet Nelson Mandela the last time he was in Dublin and there is no doubt he was truly one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime," he said.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams expressed his sadness upon hearing the news the apartheid prisoner and ex-leader had died.

"It is with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of 'Madiba' Nelson Mandela," he said.

"Nelson Mandela was a towering figure and an inspiration to freedom loving people the world over."

Alliance party leader and Justice Minister, David Ford, paid tribute to a man who he said "will be sorely missed by millions, not just in South Africa, but right across the world".

"Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest leaders of the past century," he said.

"He was one of the most iconic figures of the 20 century. His name became synonymous with peace and reconciliation. It was through his leadership that South Africa was able to throw off the shackles of apartheid.

"As our peace process began to gather speed in the 1990s, I know many people here took inspiration from what Nelson Mandela was able to achieve for South Africa. We learnt so much from him during the long road to the Good Friday Agreement."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell paid tribute to Mandela's "struggle against oppression and his enduring spirit of forgiveness and hope".

"While the death of Nelson Mandela wasn't entirely unexpected, it nevertheless has caused a great degree of sadness," he said.

"The world has lost a great champion for the rights of the oppressed, an advocate for those without a voice, a man who influenced change far beyond the confines which others attempted to impose on him.

"Nelson Mandela bestrode the world like a colossus. He was one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Despite the abuse that he, and those associated with him, had suffered, he turned the other cheek and sought a peaceful and prosperous future for South Africa when apartheid was ended."

The Republic's Taoiseach Enda Kenny described Mr Mandela's death as "a great light extinguished".

"The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said Mr Mandela changed life in South Africa, and humanity.

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