‘Nelson Mandela was a true friend to Ireland’ - Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness and his wife, Bernie, pictured with Nelson Mandela in South Africa. (0612MM21)
Martin McGuinness and his wife, Bernie, pictured with Nelson Mandela in South Africa. (0612MM21)

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has led local tributes to former South African leader Nelson Mandela following his death on Thursday night, aged 95.

Mr McGuinness, who met the former ANC leader on several occasions, described the late South African president as “one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime”.

“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.

“Through his humility, strong negotiation skills and desire for justice he earned respect as an ambassador for peace, human rights and democracy across the globe. It was appropriate in 1993 this was recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with former South African President FW De Klerk,” he said.

Mr McGuinness also praised Mr Mandela’s contribution to the peace process in the North. “Nelson Mandela has left an indelible mark not only in South Africa but across the world. In 1997, at a critical stage of our peace process, I was honoured to lead, at the invitation of President Mandela, a delegation to South Africa for significant discussion with South African peace negotiators, which also included all parties from the North.

“President Mandela’s interest in the success of the peace process was epitomised by the valuable contributions made by amongst others Cyril Ramaphosa, his Chief negotiator and the now Deputy President of African National Congress, who was a constant source of support to us throughout. Nelson Mandela was a true friend to Ireland,” he said.

A candlelit vigil will be held in Derry tonight in memory of Nelson Mandela. The event organised by Sinn Féin will be held at the H Block monument, Rossville Street, at 7pm.

Former Mayor of Derry, Councillor Paul Fleming, has also called on Derry City Council to open a book of condolences in tribute to the late South African president.