Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Cameron attends funeral for Havel

Prime Minister David Cameron has joined other world leaders saying farewell to former Czech president Vaclav Havel in Prague.

The dissident writer, elected to lead the country's transition after the Communist regime fell in the peaceful Velvet Revolution of 1989, died on Sunday aged 75 after a long illness.

As well as steering Czechoslovakia into democracy, Mr Havel also oversaw its peaceful division in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Along with Mr Cameron, French and German presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Christian Wulff attended the funeral.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, were also at the service in St Vitus Cathedral.

A tribute from Pope Benedict was read out by the Archbishop of Prague. He praised Mr Havel's bravery in defending human rights and his vision in forging a new democratic system.

"Remembering how courageously Mr Havel defended human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country, and paying tribute to his visionary leadership... I give thanks to God for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy," the Pope's statement said.

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright - who was born in Prague - spoke, as did Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and current Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

She said Mr Havel had "brought light to the places of deepest darkness".

The crowd broke out into applause as Mr Havel's coffin left the gothic cathedral bound for the city's Strasnice crematorium. His ashes are to be buried at his family's plot at Prague's Vinohrady cemetery alongside his first wife, Olga, who died in 1996.


From Belfast Telegraph