Mandela death: Irish president Michael D Higgins pays tribute

The Irish president has said Nelson Mandela was "an immense moral force".

Mr Mandela, who was South Africa's first black president, died on Thursday after a long illness.

Michael D Higgins said Mr Mandela was "one of history's greatest leaders."

He said he was "a man whose unprecedented courage and dedication broke down the cruel barriers of apartheid in South Africa and led the nation into a new and democratic age."

Nelson Mandela

1918 Born in the Eastern Cape

1943 Joined African National Congress

1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial

1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison

1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life

1990 Freed from prison

1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize

1994 Elected first black president

1999 Steps down as leader

2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer

2004 Retires from public life

2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness

He added: "The immense moral force that was Nelson Mandela was built on his commitment to all of the people, and was motivated by a deep humanity and limitless compassion that was delivered with modesty and a powerful simplicity.

"His journey to the ending of apartheid and into a new chapter in South African and world history was long, hazardous and involved considerable self-sacrifice."

Enda Kenny, prime minister of the Republic of Ireland said that, with his passing, "a great light has been extinguished. Nelson Mandela was a freeman of our capital city and of the world.

"The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe."

"Today, a great light has been extinguished. The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself.

"As we mark his passing, we give thanks for the gift of Nelson Mandela.

"We ask that his spirit continues to inspire, guide and enlighten us as we strive to bring freedom and dignity to the family of man, our brothers and sisters, across the world.

"I offer my deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Irish government and people, to his family, to his friends and supporters, and to the Government and the people of South Africa."

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