President of Ireland Michael D Higgins called the late former South African President one of “history’s greatest leaders” and “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.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said “a great light has been extinguished.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said Mr Mandela had “a truly global presence”.
Mr Mandela visited Ireland in 1990 shortly after his release from prison when he travelled to Dublin with his then wife Winnie Mandela. That Ireland was one of his first overseas trips was a cause of immense national and civic pride.
Mr. Mandela thanked Ireland for its support for the ANC and for its opposition to apartheid.
A decade later he received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College in 2000 and visited Ireland again in 2003 when Ireland hosted the Special Olympics.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said he had been “inspirational” and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called him “one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime” and “a true friend to Ireland”.
Queen’s University Belfast has paid tribute to its Centenary Honorary Graduate.
The University’s acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir James McElnay said: “The Queen’s family is deeply saddened by the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. He was an international statesman whose selfless commitment to justice, equality and reconciliation, coupled with courage and leadership, transformed a nation. He was a truly inspirational global citizen.
“The University extends its sincere sympathy to his wife Graça Machel, and his family circle”.
Nelson Mandela was awarded an honorary degree from the university in 2008. The Nobel Peace prizewinner, who led the struggle against apartheid, received the honorary Doctorate for distinction in public service from Queen’s University Belfast in 2008.
On accepting his honorary degree Nelson Mandela said: “I regret not being with you in person. My grandchildren will be impressed when I can boast with an honorary doctorate from such an esteemed institution.
“We have long admired the people of Northern Ireland who have evolved much and who, like our own people in South Africa, are now working together to build a new society. I have often said before, education is the greatest liberator of all.
“My university education was unconventional and an experience far removed from that of your students. Throughout Africa children still find it too difficult to get even a basic, formal education. The educators have a duty to use the skills they developed to give something back to the world.
“We are honoured to have learnt that the student body decided to name the hall at the University after us to highlight the cause of the people of South Africa during Apartheid. We thank you for your efforts. In honouring us, you honour the people of South Africa too. We thank you for that.”