South African President FW de Klerk personally called on Taoiseach Charles Haughey to lift an export ban on South African fruit.
We insisted that Ireland would help “mainly black” workers in the Cape region.
Intimate contacts between the Taoiseach and the South African president, who was trying to end his country’s international isolation and slowly dismantle the apartheid system, have been revealed in documents released as part of the state archives.
Mr De Klerk visited Dublin with his wife in April 1991, a year after he ordered the release of African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela from prison. Because of the apartheid regime, Ireland did not maintain diplomatic relations with South Africa.
However, Mr De Klerk’s actions in trying to end apartheid and Mr Mandela’s release had changed international opinion of him.
Two years after his visit to Ireland, he would share the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela.
Mr De Klerk’s visit was opposed by anti-apartheid campaigners and several high-profile Irish politicians, including Michael D Higgins.
While Mr Haughey met Mr De Klerk, the South African leader was not allowed to meet President Mary Robinson.
Confidential records of the meeting between Mr De Klerk and Mr Haughey showed that the Taoiseach noted the “positive developments” and changes in South Africa and said that these were due to Mr De Klerk.
However, he said Ireland had “taken a strong stance against apartheid” and “we wanted the system to be abolished as soon as possible”.
President De Klerk said: “It was good to know that there is now an appreciation for what is happening in South Africa and for the efforts that have been made.”
Both men spoke about trade between the two countries and the hope that it could improve in the future.
Ireland’s ban on the import of South African goods during the apartheid era can be traced back to the high-profile strike by Dunnes Stores workers in 1984.
President De Klerk referred to the ongoing ban on South African fruit and vegetables in a letter to Mr Haughey after the meeting.
He said lifting the ban would benefit “many thousands of families (mostly black people)”.
“I very much appreciated our exchange of views, Prime Minister, and the Irish Government’s constructive approach to the issues currently confronting my country and southern Africa,” he wrote.
“I would like to reiterate that my government remains committed to removing the last pillars of discrimination and removing all obstacles in the negotiation process.
“As you will recall, we also discussed the possibility of resuming exports of South African fresh fruit to Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to ask once again that this be seriously considered.
“The fruit industry is largely concentrated around the Western Cape, where many thousands of families (mostly black) depend on the export market for their livelihoods.”
Mr Haughey replied that he too “greatly appreciated our discussions” and wished that the “major developments taking place in South Africa under your leadership” would improve the countries’ relations.
“In relation to fruit and vegetable imports from South Africa, I note the points you have raised and I want you to know that I will take these into account in the ongoing Irish policy review, in line with political developments in South Africa,” Herr said Haughey specified.
The documents also revealed correspondence between Marike de Klerk, then First Lady of South Africa, and Maureen Haughey.
Ms de Klerk thanked Ms Haughey for “showing me Dublin” during the full day visit.
“I enjoyed the Marsh Library of Antiquities and the splendor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” wrote Mrs. de Klerk.
“But visiting Dublin Castle was definitely the highlight of the afternoon!
“My husband and I were very grateful for the warm hospitality we received and we left Dublin with fond memories of your beautiful country.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/state-papers-south-african-president-fw-de-klerk-urged-taoiseach-charles-haughey-to-end-fruit-sanctions-42247629.html Government Papers: South African President FW de Klerk urged Taoiseach Charles Haughey to end fruit sanctions