Vaclav Havel, the Hero Who Won Czech Democracy
Byline: Ian Drury
VACLAV Havel, who became the first Czech president after leading the bloodless Velvet Revolution against communist rule, died yesterday aged 75.
The dissident playwright was instrumental in opening the door to democracy in Eastern Europe by loosening the Soviet grip.
As well as steering his country towards freedom, he also oversaw the peaceful 1993 split of Czechoslovakia into two separate countries - the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
President Michael D Higgins said: 'I was in correspondence with him in recent weeks but I also have the warmest memories of his visit to Ireland during my time as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the great appreciation there was for his contributions, at the Irish Writers' Centre, on the responsibility of the intellectual in politics.
'Through the inspiration of Vaclav's words, the courage of his dissidence and the integrity of his leadership, Czechoslovakia transitioned from an authoritarian state to a free democracy at the heart of Europe.' British prime minister David Cameron said he was 'deeply saddened' at his death. He added: 'Havel devoted his life to the cause of human freedom. For years, communism tried to crush him and to extinguish his voice. But Havel, the playwright and dissident, could not be silenced. No one of my generation will ever forget those powerful scenes from Wenceslas Square two decades ago. …