Local SDLP MPs pay respects to Mandela

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Politics

SDLP MPs Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie have paid their respects to Nelson Mandela as they both signed a book of condolence for the former South African president in Africa House, London yesterday.

Durkan spoke about Mandela’s legacy and his own involvement with the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Ireland during a debate in the Commons this week.

“People in Ireland—north and south—supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement, inspired by men like Kader Asmal, who helped to found the movement in London and then founded it in Ireland when he moved here,” stated Durkan.

“I met Nelson Mandela when he came to speak to all the political parties from Northern Ireland, which were in South Africa to learn lessons and get an insight from the South African process.

“It was not the first time we had done that but it was the first time that all the parties were on one trip. We could not all share the same transport, because at that stage Unionist parties still said that they would not be in the same room or on the same transport as Sinn Fein.

“Even when we were taken on a visit to a local beach, at Africa’s most southerly point, apartheid South Africa’s laws unfortunately had to be reinstated and there was separation.

“I was at the event with Kader Asmal, who was seething at the idea that we were separated and imposing limits on ourselves, but he told me that Nelson Mandela had said to him, ‘It is not up to us to impose our standards on them. We can give them our example, and they will find their way.’

Durkan added, “If we want to take part in the emulation of Nelson Mandela, we should not just expect things of other people who live in difficult circumstances; we should rise to the challenge, and deal with the apartheid nature of our society that still exists.”

Local SDLP MP Ritchie echoed Durkan’s sentiments, describing Mandela as a beacon of hope and a champion of Human and Civil Rights. “The contribution that he made toward reconciliation in his native South Africa was immense and should be the yard stick against which we measure our own efforts to reconcile our people.

“We must learn the lessons which his life has taught us. The struggle for Civil rights may be long, the road to reconciliation may be filled with obstacles and the path to a society at peace with itself may be treacherous but these are all journeys that can be completed with good will, hope and ambition in the hearts of all participants,” she added.


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