Striking Back

Sinead O'Brien

They knew little about apartheid and assumed they could shortly return to work. But theirs were kindling voices, on the cusp of igniting a mass movement they couldn't even imagine. The arrival on the picket line of Nimrod Sejake, a South African freedom fighter who had shared a cell with Nelson Mandela, was a turning point. He was the first black person the strikers had ever seen. Nimrod explained the atrocity of apartheid, motivating them to strategise and take the protest onto the international stage. Within months, Desmond Tutu, the United Nations and the South African government were embroiled in the dispute. After nearly three years of bitter battle between the strikers and the establishment, including the Garda and Catholic Church, a beleaguered Irish Government imposed a boycott on South African goods. This had a domino effect as other governments cut economic ties with the regime. Here, Mary Manning tells of her public fight for equality, alongside her private voyage of discovery. She learns her mother was conceived outside marriage and began her life in the now notorious Goldenbridge Industrial School. She had to keep this a secret for most of her life forced to carry a burden of shame by the same oppressive establishment Mary was fighting. Despite harassment, Mary refused to be silenced. Her dramatic and inspiring story shows how even small actions by those on the bottom can provoke lasting change all the way to the top.

In July 1984, a young checkout girl in Dunnes Stores on Dublin's Henry Street refused to register the sale of two grapefruits, produce of South Africa, under a directive from her union. She and ten co-workers were suspended.

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