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Nelson Mandela – Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers to sign book of condolence at Mansion House in Dublin 5pm Saturday (meeting 4:45pm) December 7, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, South Africa, The Left.

Many thanks to the person who sent us this:

Nelson Mandela – Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers to sign book of condolence at
Mansion House in Dublin 5pm Saturday (meeting 4:45pm)

Group to include Mary Manning, Karen Gearon (shop steward) and Brendan Archbold (trade union official during strike)

THE DUNNES STORES ANTI-APARTHEID STRIKERS will sign the book of condolence for Nelson Mandela RIP at the Mansion House in Dublin at 5pm on Saturday 7 December.
Amongst the group will be Mary Manning, whose support for the international boycott of produce from the apartheid state by refusing to handle South African produce on 19 July 1984 saw the start of the nearly three-year strike. With Mary will be Karen Gearon (shop steward) and Brendan Archbold (the trade union head office official throughout the dispute), and the other strikers who endured one of Ireland’s longest trade union struggles in solidarity with South Africa’s oppressed.


ELEVEN YOUNG WORKERS (ten women and one man) at the Henry Street, Dublin, branch of Dunnes Stores took a stand against apartheid in on 19 July 1984. They thought it would last two weeks – it went on for two years and nine months.
The strikers – including Mary Manning, Karen Gearon and Brendan Archbold – were held at gunpoint at Johannesburg Airport and deported by South African security police when they flew there in 1985 at the invitation of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu while Mandela was still in prison. Brendan Archbold quipped at their deportation that the young Dubliners must be “the most dangerous shop workers in the world”.
Strikers Karen Gearon and Michelle Gavin later went to New York to address the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid.
The strike only ended when the Irish Government agreed to ban the import of South African fruit and veg until the apartheid regime was overthrown.
Nelson Mandela met almost all of the strikers when he visited Dublin in 1992 except for Mary Manning and Vonnie Munroe, who had emigrated to Australia.
Brendan Archbold also saw Nelson Mandela in 2008 while on a family holiday in South Africa.

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1. Feadog - December 7, 2013

We should all be rightly proud of them.
Any chance there’s some workers in Lidl or Aldi willing to stand up to the other apartheid regime – Israel?

2. Joe - December 11, 2013

I spent a good number of afternoons on that picket line, mostly in 1985 if memory serves. I was working in a public service job in town. On Mondays and Wednesdays I would work till 1pm and then be off till 5pm and then work till 9pm. So me and a few others would head over to Henry St to join the picket.
By that stage, most of the actual strikers would only be on the picket line occasionally. It was manned haphazardly by supporters like myself.
My approach as I picketed was to try to speak to anyone who crossed it and say to them that there was a strike on against apartheid in South Africa. I remember one chap had already gone in through the door when I caught his attention. He came back to me and I said my line. He looked me in the eye and said “I support apartheid in South Africa”. He was a working class Dubliner in his twenties. Lesson: There is a latent potential support for racism and fascism among a section of the working class.
After a while a chap called Harry Owens got involved and organised the support picket better. We wanted to stop deliveries early in the morning so Harry gathered phone numbers and organised a rota for five o’clock in the morning pickets. I’d set my alarm for four and cycle into town. We’d block the entrance round the back of the shop while the milkman threw cartons of milk over us to the scabs inside.
I remember one afternoon an RTE reporter came up to me and said did I know anything about Gerry Adams joining the picket that day. I said that I didn’t but that if he did, I wouldn’t be with him. Gerry duly arrived with a few supporters and met with one of the strikers for a photo opportunity on the picket line. Myself and my friend observed from the doorway of Arnott’s across the street. (I hadn’t joined the WP at that stage but clearly my politics were pretty good!).
Another thing I remember was one day when Karen Gearon was on the picket and they spotted a couple of Roches Stores workers, with their name badges, crossing the line. The strikers made sure they noted down the names to give to the union – if I recall correctly, they thought that one of these picket-crossers was actually a shop steward in Roches!
The head of Mandate at the time (was it called Mandate then?) was a chap called John Mitchell. He was a left socialist (republican?) and he had a campaign called CAISP – Campaign for an all-Ireland Socialist Party. SWM and various other small grouplets were involved. Plus ca change. Anyway he got into trouble with his Union Executive for letting Provisional Sinn Féin use the union hall for public meetings. They told him not to do it again or if he was doing it to go through some procedure. He went ahead and did it anyway and they sacked him. I thought this was good (I would wouldn’t I) because it was an Executive, elected by the members, controlling their full-time official. Socialists would be in favour of that, no. Anyway next thing I get a call from Harry Owens asking me to come to a meeting of the Reinstate John Mitchell Support campaign or somesuch. I did not attend. He later did a pay-off deal with the union and I haven’t heard of him since.
Me I joined the WP, helped by the fact that my first cousin was standing for them as a local election candidate. I was active enough in the Party for about 5 years. Then I got married and had kids and the Party split and I took my chance to retire from activity.
Until I discovered the CLR and now I’m changing the world along with the rest of yis/us.

WorldbyStorm - December 11, 2013

Can I repost this as a post Joe, it’s a great overview if the time!

Joe - December 11, 2013

Aw shucks. Course you can WBS.

3. roddy - January 3, 2014

Joe,so your contribution to the anti apartheid struggle was to skulk in Arnotts doorway lest you be contaminated by the only Irish politician who ever gave any PRACTICAL help to the ANC

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