Dunnes Stores Strikers on the picket line

The Dunnes Stores strike of July 1984-April 1987 began when Mary Manning, a worker in Dunnes Stores, Henry Street, Dublin, was suspended for refusing to handle South African fruit in support of trade union policy which backed the international campaign to boycott the produce of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

She was supported by her shop steward, Karen Gearon, and nine other workers (Brendan Barron, Tommy Davis, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Sandra Griffin, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Murphy, Cathryn O’Reilly and Alma Russell). The strike was made official by their union, IDATU (now Mandate), then led by John P. Mitchell. The strike organiser was Brendan Archbold.

Widely frowned on by senior figures in the Irish trade union movement, word of the strike quickly spread outside Ireland.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu met the strikers and Nelson Mandela, from prison, said the strikers gave him “great hope and inspiration”. The strike ended in April 1987 when the Irish government banned the import of South African goods. Today, the Irish government would not be able to ban the import of South African fruit under EU law.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement boycott event poster (featuring Winnie Mandela). Poster © ICTU and IAAM
Letter that was presented to the Dunnes Stores strikers as they arrived back to work following the ending of the strike. January 1987. Dublin, Ireland © Photo Derek Speirs
Dunnes Stores strikers on the picket line August 1985 - Left to right: Theresa Mooney, Catherine O'Reilly, Karen Gearon, Veronica Munroe, Alma Russell, Sandra Griffen, Mary Manning and Tommy Davis (not in photo - Dorothy Dooley, Michelle Gavin and Liz Deasy) - in the foreground: Leah Munroe (Veronica's daughter) finding out if the rain has stopped. © Photo: Derek Speirs/Report

Source: Irish Congress of Trade Unions / Derek Speirs

Year: 1985

All materials courtesy of Brendan Archbold and the Archbold family, David Joyce and Derek Speirs. Text by John Daly