Thursday, 12 December 2013

Remembering Nelson Mandela in
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral tonight

Sunrise earlier this week in south Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

I took part in a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, this evening [12 December 2013].

I was asked to be chaplain to Colonel Brendan McAndrew, senior aide-de-camp to President Michael D Higgins, who was representing the President who has been at the funeral in South Africa.

The cathedral was packed, filled with South Africans and with many old friends and familiar faces who were active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and its campaigns since its foundation in April 1964.

Throughout the service there were constant references to and kind reminiscences of Kader and Louise Asmal.

We were welcomed by the Dean of Saint Patrick’s, the Very Revd Victor Stacey, and the other clergy present included the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne, the Archdeacon of Dublin, the Ven David Pierpoint, Canon Robert Reed, Precent of Saint Patrick’s, Bishop Raymond Field of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Michael Mernagh of the Augustinian community in Saint John’s Lane and Meath Street, the Revd John Stephens of the Methodist Church, and the Revd Professor Terence McCaughey of the Presbyterian Church and, of course, a former President of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Three poets read at this evening’s service – Theo Dorgan of Aosdana, Ruth Rosen, a South African actress who was active in the ANC in London, and Dolores Walsh, author of Where the Trees Weep.

Christy Moore also sang and the singing was led by the Dexi Gospel Choir and Acoustic Soul.

The speakers included:

● The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn
● The South African Ambassador, Azwindini Jeremiah Dingaan Ndou
● The Minister for Social Protection and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Joan Burton, who was honorary secretary of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 1980s
● David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and a former sponsor of IAAM
● Gary Kilgallen, a former vice-chair and chair of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement
● Rafique Mottiar, honorary treasurer and later vice-chair of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement
● Steve Shiang, chairperson of the African National Congress Ireland

Throughout the evening there were outbursts of joyful singing and clapping as Nelson Mandela was remembered with great joy and celebration.

As the service came to an end, I was surprised that I remembered all the words of the South African anthem and could join fully in the singing:

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika — South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.


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