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Speech by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Nelson Mandela Peace Summit United Nations, New York 24 September 2018

 

Issued by the Government Press Office
24 September 2018

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Madame President of the General Assembly,


Mr Secretary General,


President Ramaphosa,


Excellency Madame Machel,
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.


It is my great honour to join you today as we adopt the Nelson Mandela Political Declaration. It reminds us all that Mandela’s is a living legacy, entrusted to us so we can be the torch-bearers for peace and reconciliation, for this and future generations.
Side by side with our great friends from South Africa, Ireland was privileged to co-facilitate the work that has led to today’s Political Declaration.
With each of you today, I reaffirm that Ireland will continue to uphold the ideals of the United Nations and work with the international community to achieve the aims that Mandela himself worked so tirelessly for during his lifetime.


In Mandela’s story, we recognise the struggles and triumphs of one individual, and the challenges and hope for mankind.
His fight for freedom and dignity for all - irrespective of race, gender, sexuality, colour or creed – spoke to our vision of our common humanity and proved that the seemingly impossible can indeed become reality. It was reflected in South Africa’s first democratic constitution, written for a rainbow nation. It is a template for new democracies today.
Dear friends, this year in Ireland, we mark 20 years of the Good Friday Agreement, which after decades of bitter violence, brought peace to Britain and Ireland, closer co-operation between North and South and power-sharing in Northern Ireland, at least, most of the time.
The Northern Ireland Peace Process was advanced with the wisdom and assistance of friends from around the world, including you, President Ramaphosa. For this we will always be grateful.


We have witnessed firsthand the profound truths that Nelson Mandela showed. Through his words and though his actions:
· violent conflict is not inevitable;
· peace is made, not with your friends, but with your enemies;
· reconciliation is achieved by moving beyond the hurts and pain of the past towards truth and forgiveness.


And, perhaps most profound of all, we can free the prisoner, and we can free the jailer as well.
Twenty-eight years ago, just months after being released from prison, an occasion etched in my memory as a young boy, Nelson Mandela was accorded the special honour of being invited to speak before the Irish parliament. There he inspired us with his words as he attacked ‘the arrogance of racism’ and honoured those who ‘dared to cry freedom’.


In our native Irish language, we say of truly remarkable individuals:
‘Ni bheidh a leithéid ann arís’.
‘We will never see the likes of him again’.
And I can think of no better way to describe the uniqueness of Mandela.
I believe the legacy of Nelson Mandela points to a deeper truth.
A voice may be silenced by death, but its message can never be suppressed. It is heard for all time. And it finds a home in the hearts and the minds and the values of those who follow afterwards.
Inspired by the message of Nelson Mandela again, we should provide a voice for the oppressed around the world. Finding shared solutions guided by shared values like our belief in multilateralism, freedom of the individual, human rights, democracy and protecting our planet.

We should look to the words of this Declaration as we face the challenges of the 21st century.
Recognising what has been done in the area of gender discrimination, we must renew our efforts to further advance gender equality around the world. And we must give young people a greater say in the decisions that will affect them - the future of our planet.
War and hatred come in many guises, peace has the same face the world over. It is the image of those who open their hearts and minds and make the impossible possible, and build a future worth living for.
Thank you.