FOLLOWING the death of Winnie Mandela on Easter Monday, former airport police officer John O’Halloran recalled a stopover she made at Shannon Airport in 1990.
It was shortly after her husband’s release from 27 years of imprisonment, and the visit was quite unexpected.
“At the time this photo was taken she was due to come to Ireland about a month later on an official visit,” says John.
He ended up with the first photos of Mrs Mandela taken here with her husband.
“He [Nelson Mandela] was on a tour of a handful of nations around the world. He had gone from Johannesburg, arrived in Rome, stayed there for a while and he was going to Ottowa in Canada.
“On the way they were running low on fuel and they diverted into Shannon unexpectedly. On the day I was in charge of Airport Police and I didn’t call anyone in, we looked after them while they were there.”
John added, “She was a lovely person to speak to. We took her on a tour of the duty free complex. She was very interested in Waterford glass and Irish linen, and we made a presentation of Irish linen to her. She was delighted with it.”
By Owen Ryan