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Irish government hails former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as a voice for a more peaceful world

Former SDLP leader John Hume and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Derry in October 2004. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Michael McHugh

THE Irish government has hailed former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as a voice for a more peaceful and equal world.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who served two terms as head of the organisation dedicated to maintaining the international order and tackling conflict, died on Saturday aged 80.

Mr Annan recognised Ireland's central role in peace-building operations overseas and supported the Northern Ireland peace process, foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said.

He said: "Kofi Annan was an exceptional international statesman who worked tirelessly for a more peaceful and equal world, both during his long and illustrious career in the United Nations and since his retirement, championing the cause of peace and reconciliation, in particular on his own beloved continent of Africa."

The Good Friday Agreement was signed during Mr Annan's tenure.

Mr Coveney said Mr Annan had a dedicated interest in Ireland and the maintenance of peace on the island, commentating as recently as April on the agreement and its legacy.

In 2004 he met Irish peacekeepers in Dublin to thank them for their service.

He also visited Ireland in 2015, marking the 60th anniversary of the Republic's membership of the UN and the positive and sustained commitment Ireland has made in peacekeeping, human rights, international development and disarmament.

The Irish army, as part of the UN forces, has had a decades-long role tackling violence in the Lebanon and dozens have lost their lives.

Mr Coveney added: "With the sad passing of Kofi Annan, the international community has lost one of its greatest champions for these causes.

"His dedication to a more equal, interdependent and peaceful world is a shining example to all.

"Kofi Annan has left a significant legacy and it is the responsibility of Ireland and all UN member states to carry his mantle into the future."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Annan was a true multi-lateralist and a tireless advocate for world peace.

He said: "He remained involved in public life after his retirement and will be long remembered for his commitment to the betterment of the global community."

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Annan was a constant reminder of the importance of multilateral action by states and of the urgent need to tackle climate change and assist vulnerable communities who are experiencing its effects most acutely.

"He was a great representative of his country Ghana and of the African continent, and his wisdom, empathy, humour and insights will be greatly missed by all."

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald said he was a skilled and dedicated international diplomat.

"Mr Annan was a self-described eternal optimist and a genuine believer in the potential of the international community to rise above our differences. He will be sadly missed."

Former Irish president Mary Robinson is part of an international group known as the Elders, of which Mr Annan was the chair.

They said: "The world has lost an inspiring figure – but one whose achievements will never be forgotten, and whose commitment to peace and justice will endure to inspire future generations."

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