Belfast Telegraph

Nelson Mandela death: Books of condolence and candlelit vigil in Northern Ireland for 'Prince of Peace'

By Rebecca Black

Vigils were held and a book of condolence opened as Northern Ireland paid its respects to former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Unionists, nationalist and republican politicians united in respect for the internationally- renowned statesman who was known for his dignity and grace.

However, some local people appeared less impressed with Mr Mandela, posting comments on social media describing him as a terrorist. It is understood that some loyalists held parties yesterday to celebrate the death of the former South African President.

A spokesman for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said he could not confirm last night whether either Mr Robinson or Mr McGuinness would be attending Mr Mandela's funeral next week.

Belfast's Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford launched a book of condolence at City Hall, following a vigil organised by Sinn Fein at the statesman's mural on the Falls Road.

Mr Stalford paid tribute to Mr Mandela as someone who devoted his life to ending injustice.

"He empowered the black community in South Africa, who were 80% of the population of that country, but were excluded from the democratic and political life of that country," he said. "Also, after apartheid had been dismantled, he showed remarkable grace towards those who had previously opposed him."

Philippa McLaran was one of the first to sign the book.

She was raised in South Africa during the apartheid regime, although she lived in a multi-racial area and counted both black and white people among her friends.

"Some of my school friends were protesters and another of my school friends, her mother was killed in a bomb," she said.

"It was highly emotional the day that Nelson Mandela was released. It was disbelief and joy."

Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir is in Chicago on council business.

However he tweeted: "Saddened to hear that a Prince of Peace has fallen. Nelson Mandela inspired reconciliation and bridge-building in Belfast and across the globe."

He also revealed plans to light the City Hall up in the colours of the South African flag and a series of events in memory of the leader.

A council spokeswoman said discussions on how to remember Mr Mandela are currently under way. A number of other councils, including Omagh, also plan to open books of condolence.

Earlier yesterday, Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan led the laying of wreaths at the recently repainted Mandela mural just off the Falls Road.

The former hunger striker met Mr Mandela in 2001 along with his wife Siobhan O'Hanlon, their two-year-old son Cormac and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

The MLA said the relationship between Irish republicanism and the ANC went back over 20 years.

The first mural of Mr Mandela in west Belfast was commissioned in 1988 to mark his 70th birthday.

A candlelit vigil was also held at the site of the former Andersonstown police station.

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