Speech by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D.
At the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service
St Patrick’s Cathedral
The date was June 1996, just two years into his presidency.
The place was the Palace of Westminster in London.
Nelson Mandela was on a state visit to the UK, accompanied by our own Kader and Louise Asmal, the founders of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.
As he walked into the chamber, Mandela perhaps glanced over the assembled Lords and Commons.
He would have seen some who had been steadfast allies and friends of the anti-apartheid cause for decades.
Others had been bitter enemies of the cause and had reviled him and his friends personally.
They had resisted sanctions, had sold arms to the hated regime and offered it diplomatic cover.
In the front row was Margaret Thatcher, the person who had declared that anyone who believed the ANC was ever going to form the Government of South Africa was “living in cloud cuckoo land”.
Mandela would have been forgiven if he dwelled on past insults and had crowed a bit about his triumphs.
But Nelson Mandela was not like that.
He was there to focus on the future, to invite trade and investment.
He was there to give a progress report on the reforms he had pioneered to overcome the legacy of apartheid – the multi-racial cabinet, the liberal constitution, the multi-party democracy, the million homes under construction, the schools and clinics, and the massive programme to deliver clean water under Kader’s management. (more…)