Statement by the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton
Nelson Mandela was and remains an inspirational figure for all who are engaged in the struggle for human freedom and national self-determination. His life story is a story of the triumph of the human spirit when faced with seemingly overwhelming state repression and brutality.
In Ireland we salute the memory of a man prepared to spend 27 years of his life in prison rather than compromise on the fundamental principles of the struggle for a free South Africa. He was a statesman but also a soldier and as leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was prepared to bring the fight directly to the apartheid South African State. During the negotiations for the new post-apartheid when the idea of partitioning South Africa in order to create a white-dominated statelet was mooted Mandela rejected the notion immediately saying that he did not want to see a South African Ulster being created.
In 2000 Nelson Mandela attended a lunch along with a group of Irish newspaper editors in the home of Tony O’Reilly. Mandela was questioned as to whether or not the Provisionals should be decommissioning their arms. Mandela’s response was unequivocal, “…my position is that you don’t hand over your weapons until you get what you want.” Needless to say this was a response that was not welcomed nor reported on. Mandela’s attitude contrasts sharply with those who had already at that point in time abandoned the ideological basis for continuing the fight for a free Ireland.
For Mandela his long walk to freedom was one without turning or deviation from the principles of universal human freedom. It is saddening to see that the current South African state falls short of the high ideals by which he lived life but nonetheless his legacy will remain an inspiration for those who continue to seek true political and economic democracy in South Africa and around the world.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.