Anti-apartheid strikers to attend Mandela ceremonies

Trade unions organising flights for some of those who took part in 1980s picket

Dunnes Stores workers who went on strike for almost three years over the importing of goods from apartheid South Africa are to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral.

Trade unions have organised flights for some of those who took part in the high-profile picket at the retail chain in Dublin in the 1980s.

Some of those leaving, including Mary Manning, were to depart as early as this afternoon.

The action was triggered in 1984 when Ms Manning, then a 21-year-old cashier, was suspended for refusing to handle goods bought from South Africa.


The strike, involving 11 workers, was one of the longest in trade union history and only ended when the Government agreed to ban the import of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was over.

Mr Mandela met the strike workers during a visit to Dublin in the early 1990s.

Ms Manning has a street named after her in Johannesburg.

The workers were commemorated five years ago with an official plaque in central Dublin.

Ms Manning was presented with the plaque in a special ceremony by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

The Mandate trade union said it and other unions in Ireland were arranging the attendance of the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers at Mr Mandela's funeral next Sunday.

Mandate general secretary John Douglas said: "The trade union movement believes it would be a fitting tribute from the Irish trade union movement to send the Dunnes Stores strikers, who took such a brave stance on the issue of apartheid, to the funeral of Mr Mandela in South Africa."

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina will fly to South Africa tomorrow to attend a memorial service for Mr Mandela at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Earlier, Sinn Féin had called on the Government to send the Dunnes Stores strikers to South Africa to represent Ireland for Mandela’s send-off.

The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it would be “a fitting way for Ireland to honour Mr Mandela if the Government sent this group of Irish people, who seized the moral imperative and did what they could to challenge the apartheid regime in South Africa, to the funeral”.

“The workers stood firm on their refusal to handle South African goods even in the face of great adversity and sometimes visceral, unjustified condemnation,” she said in a statement.

Additional reporting: Press Association