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The legacy of Nelson Mandela in Ireland

Asmal2In 1987 the African National Congress (ANC) knew the end of Apartheid was near. The Constitutional Committee of the movement asked the late Kadar Asmal, who was living in exile in Ireland at the time, to draft the guiding principles of a future constitution, one that was eventually written into law in 1996.

Asmal, then a lecturer at Trinity College, asked his fellow South African comrade, Albie Sachs from London, to lend him a helping hand. They met a number of times in a house at Beech Park Road in Foxrock to write the first draft of the Bill of Rights for a democratic South Africa, a human rights charter to protect the social, civil and political rights of all of that divided country's people.

Sachs remembers sitting down with a blank sheet of paper — no universal declaration, no international conventions, no constitution from any country — on the basis that a Bill of Rights should speak out from the soul the fundamental rights that belong to every human being and shouldn't be a list of items gleaned from an encyclopedia or legal dictionary or textbook.

When Nelson Mandela became the country's first democratically elected president in 1994, work on the country's constitution began and the document drafted by Asmal and Sachs in Dublin appeared almost verbatim in a chapter of today's constitution.


We need many more people of this character and integrity.
Indeed we do. Corruption in high places seems to be endemic.
A wonderful story. I was in South Africa in 1987 and went back in 1997 to a completely different place. I saw Mandela in Parliament. Such a beautiful man.
I took a class from Ablie during the summer of 2007. I found him to be delightful and engaging and passionate. It is a long story but I was the oldest student, one of the few white students, and the only student that was actually a lawyer (vs a law student). It was truly an amazing class on comparative law.