Former president Mary Robinson has said the world feels like it has lost a family member in the death of Nelson Mandela.
The human rights campaigner, who worked closely with South Africa’s first black president, lauded his sense of humour, describing him as “a huge flirt”.
“Why is it that we celebrate that we are so sad, that we feel a loss as if it’s a family member?” Ms Robinson said.
“Why are we so bereft?
“Because he was the best of us. He was the best of our values.”
Ms Robinson, Ireland’s first female president, attended Mr Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.
They continued to work closely over the years and in 2007, Mr Mandela appointed the campaigner to The Elders – an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace.
Ms Robinson said the leader wanted the values that inspired his country to become a “rainbow nation” to help create a “rainbow world”.
“He lived the values he talked about,” she told RTE Radio.
“His long walk to freedom, the struggles he made, the reconciling, the peace that he made when he came out of prison, he wouldn’t negotiate until he came out of prison.
“So instead of the apartheid government being able to somehow manipulate him, he completely controlled the discussion of forming a government.
“So he was very strong, but he was also very human.”