Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers honoured with award

Mary Manning and her colleagues praised for their support of human rights

A former Dunnes Stores worker and her colleagues who went on strike for more than two years to highlight the injustice of the apartheid regime in South Africa have been honoured with this year's Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Mary Manning, who was suspended by Dunnes Stores management in Henry Street in Dublin on July 19th 1984 when she refused to sell South African produce to a customer, has been honoured with the award along with nine colleagues who went in strike over her suspension,

Jim Nolan of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork recalled how the action by Ms Manning and her nine fellow Dunnes Stores strikers and members of the then IDATU trade union led to a 33 month long strike that forced a change in Irish Government policy on South African imports.

“Mary Manning and her colleagues were willing to act in accordance with the stated policy of their trade union motions and do what was right to make a determined stand to raise awareness of the brutal apartheid regime which existed in South Africa,” said Mr Nolan.


“In spite of all obstacles and harassment and silence from those who should have supported them, these workers refused to be silenced and bravely stood up for the human rights of South Africans who were suffering under the apartheid regime,” he added.

Mr Nolan said that Mother Jones, the Cork born US trade union activist, who was once described as “the most dangerous woman in America” because of her union activism, would have fully endorsed the actions of Ms Manning and her colleagues at Dunnes Stores on Henry Street.

“None other than the future president of South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela himself, who was in prison at the time, has stated that the Dunnes Stores strikers gave him great hope and inspiration,” said Mr Nolan as he presented the award to Ms Manning.

"Their actions forced the Irish government to eventually ban the import of South African products to Ireland and triggered the wider boycott of these products elsewhere. Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers are worthy recipients of the 2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Ms Manning accepted the award on behalf of the Dunnes Stores Strikers which, in addition to herself, included Cathryn O'Reilly, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Malone, Karen Gearon, Michelle Glavin, Liz Deasy and Tommy Davis.

She thanked the organisers of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival organisers and said she and her colleagues were honoured to join previous winners such as homeless campaigner, Fr Peter McVerry, solicitor, Gareth Pierce and Hillsborough justice campaigners, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times