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Saturday 10 December 2016

Proud moment as Dunnes Stores apartheid strikers honoured

HONOUR

Dunnes Stores strikers. Back row from left to right: Mary Manning, Rosaleen Archbald, wife of the late Brendan Archbald, trade union official, Catheraine O'Reilly, Michelle Gavin, Alma Russell, Sandra Griffin, and Brendan Barron. Front row: Karen Gearon, Theresa Mooney and Rosaleen Manning, wife of the late, Brendan Archbald, trade union official.
Dunnes Stores strikers. Back row from left to right: Mary Manning, Rosaleen Archbald, wife of the late Brendan Archbald, trade union official, Catheraine O'Reilly, Michelle Gavin, Alma Russell, Sandra Griffin, and Brendan Barron. Front row: Karen Gearon, Theresa Mooney and Rosaleen Manning, wife of the late, Brendan Archbald, trade union official.
Dunnes Stores strikers, Karen Gearon, Theresa Mooney and Rosaleen Manning, wife of the late, Brendan Archbald, trade union official, at the laying of a plaque in honour of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strikers.
Dunnes Stores striker Liz Deasy with her son Aaron (11) and daughter Amy (9) at the laying of a plaque in honour of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strikers.
A plaque in honour of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strikers on Dublin's Henry Street.

Dunnes Stores workers who took part in an anti-apartheid strike in 1984 have been commemorated by Dublin City Council.

The plaque, outside Dunnes Stores on Henry Street, celebrates the 11 individuals who went on strike for two years and nine months to protest handling goods from apartheid South Africa.

Their determination led to the Irish government's ban on importing produce from the country and is credited with contributing to the end of the apartheid regime. Speaking at the plaque's unveiling, Mandate trade union general secretary John Douglas said the unveiling was an honour.

RIDICULED

"When they took their principled stance in 1984, they weren't very popular. Their employer, Dunnes Stores, targeted them, but so too did the State. They were ridiculed. Their work colleagues passed their pickets and abused them on a daily basis. As did many members of the public."

He commended them as teenagers who stood their ground in support of people they had never met.

"It would have been so easy to just walk away, but they stood strong. That type of solidarity is very rare and this city and this country should be very proud of their inspirational stand."

Karen Gearon, who was a shop steward during the strike, said spirits were low at times during the protest but the support of the then workers' union representative, Brendan Archbold, was immeasurable.

"When the strike started he told us we wouldn't be out for more than two weeks," Ms Gearon said. "It was probably the only thing he got wrong in the whole dispute. He was so supportive but we never thought it would go on for two years and nine months."

Recognising the personal difficulties they faced at the time, Ms Gearon said there were occasions "that we just wanted to walk away from it.

"But we would never have gone back in and handled South African produce. We would have lost our jobs before we did that."

Roseleen Archbold, wife of the late Mr Archbold, said she was "immeasurably proud".

Following his release from prison in 1990, former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, told the strikers their stand had helped keep him going during his incarceration.

The plaque honours all who took part in the strike including Brendan Archbold, Karen Gearon, Mary Manning, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Vonnie Munroe, Alma Russell, Tommy Davis, Sandra Griffin, Theresa Mooney, Catherine O'Reilly and Brendan Barron.

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