Activists mark 100 years since birth of Mandela
March from Famine Memorial marks centenary of South African leader’s birth
Members of All Together in Dignity Ireland walk through the Famine Statues as part of a commemoration of 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. Photograph: Tom Honan
A small group of activists marked the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth in a march from the Famine Memorial in Dublin city centre on Wednesday.
Starting at the memorial by the IFSC, a group of 30 activists walked up the quays, stopping along the way to read out a selection of quotes from the deceased South African leader.
Born in 1918, Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary, who spent 27 years in prison, before becoming the first black president of South Africa in 1994. He was one of the most prominent political figures of the second half of the 20th century, and died in 2013.
The commemoration was organised by human rights group All Together in Dignity (ATD) Ireland.
Pierre Klein, national co-ordinator with ATD Ireland, said the legacy of Mandela was to be a “guide for the way we should develop a strong commitment against poverty”.
Irish people have always felt a particular connection to the political leader, he said. “Ireland has a specific relationship to Mandela, not just because of the Dunnes Stores [strike]. You can’t deny the history of Ireland has proximity with the history of other colonised countries, and poor countries, so this probably creates a resonance,” he said.
In 1984, a Dunnes Stores worker in their Henry Street store refused to handle goods from South Africa, which led to a strike from several workers that only ended in 1987, when a ban was introduced on South African products by the Irish government.
Speaking at the event, Imany Leyla Raye of NGO Front Line Defenders said Mandela “meant a lot” to her. Originally from Cameroon, she said “his struggle for freedom is very dear to us, especially those from African countries, because we see injustice . . . every day”.
Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson wrote to the group organising the event, to express her support.
“It is good that you are starting your march from the Famine Memorial ... in Dublin’s Docklands,” she wrote.
“Our strong memory of an Gorta Mór, the Great Famine, and our struggles for freedom give Irish people a strong empathy for developing countries and communities. This was the focus of Nelson Mandela, who constantly called on rich countries to help poor countries,” she said.