Belfast Telegraph

Robinson offers Mandela tributes

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson has said Nelson Mandela was an inspiration.

He paid tribute to the former South African leader's humility and charisma following his death at the age of 95.

"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," Mr Robinson said.

"Nelson Mandela carried out his role with a real talent to draw people and whole communities together. South Africa and the rest of the world had a tremendous respect for him.

"When I asked how he dealt with opposition and the business of negotiation he commented that real negotiation is not with political opponents, rather with your own community and while they may feel you are stepping ahead of them, it is important to convince them to make the journey - a message so pertinent to our own peace process."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was an ambassador for peace, human rights and democracy across the globe.

In 1997, at a critical stage of the peace process, the Sinn Fein politician led, at the invitation of Mr Mandela, a delegation to South Africa for significant discussions with South African peace negotiators, which included all parties from Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuinness added that Mr Mandela's interest in the success of Northern Ireland's peace process was epitomised by the valuable contributions made by Cyril Ramaphosa, his chief negotiator and now the deputy president of the ANC who inspected IRA arms to verify they had been put beyond use.

"Nelson Mandela was a true friend to Ireland," Mr McGuinness said.

Nobel Laureate and former SDLP leader John Hume said Mr Mandela was a global beacon for forgiveness and reconciliation.

"He not only stood against the injustice and inequality of apartheid, but rose above it and overcame it, leading his nation and his people on the road to freedom," he said.

"Nelson Mandela was a strong supporter of the Irish peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, consistently promoting the need for inclusive dialogue, consultation and negotiation as opposed to confrontation and conflict.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Mr Mandela's family and the people of South Africa as they mourn the loss of an inspirational and courageous leader and a true peacemaker."

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