Higgins to make Mandela speech

President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins has been asked to speak on behalf of European leaders at a special lunch marking the first day of Nelson Mandela lying in state.

Heads of state from around the world have been invited to the event in the South African capital Pretoria as thousands of people are expected to file past the freedom fighter’s remains in the city’s Union Buildings.

The coffin holding Mr Mandela will be on display in South Africa’s main seat of power for the next three days.

A spokesman for the President said he had been asked to address the lunch by South African president Jacob Zuma on behalf of the heads of state of the European Union.

Mr Higgins will pay his own respects to Mr Mandela before he speaks.

Mr Mandela will be moved to his final resting place on Sunday, when he will be buried at his childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.

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