Our case for new bridge to be named for Mother Jones

 

Mother Jones Bridge?

The new Bridge, with inset Mother Jones photographed after a visit to the White House, Washington D.C. in  1924

The Cork Mother Jones Committee has formally made a submission to Cork City Council outlining the case for the new bridge linking Merchant’s Quay and St. Patrick’s Quay to be named in honour of Mother Jones:-

 

To: Cork City Council.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee, wish to nominate Mother Jones as being a suitable and appropriate name for the new bridge.

The bridge links the Island of the City to the north side. Mary Harris was born and baptised in the Shandon area on the north side of Cork City less than a mile away and it would be entirely appropriate that the new entrance to the Northern Quarter of the City would display the name of her most famous daughter. She was a rebel in the true and best sense of the word and again it would be appropriate to highlight to the world that her roots were in Cork as the city is known the world over as the “Rebel City”.

As a person who had to leave Ireland just after the Great Famine (her father left in 1847), she is representative of the millions of anonymous emigrants forming the current diaspora who had to depart Ireland seeking a better life. Many of these like Mary Harris left through the local City Quays on their way to Cobh.

Her name on a bridge on those very quays would have a certain symmetry to the suffering and fear endured by those emigrants. They began their journey not far from Patricks Quay and it would celebrate the lives of those ancestors of ours.

Mary fought for basic social justice and labour rights for hundreds of thousands of poor, oppressed and exploited, many of which were Irish. The Irish have always done our best to help people where ever we have travelled. From missionaries to politics to those active in the labour movement and even the thousands of convicts transported from Spike Island we have tried to bring justice and fairness wherever we have gone. Mother Jones in many ways can represent them also. We are immensely proud of these people and we should display it publicly.

She is known to millions of people across America and if the bridge was named in her honour it would provide a focus point for many Americans to come and visit this city, the city of her birth. She was named by the Observer newspaper in 2015 alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Ernesto Guevara, Zapata and James Connolly as among the ten revolutionary people in history who inspired social change. Just imagine if Cork city was the birthplace of someone compared to Gandhi and deemed as important as him by one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in the world. It was and yet we forgot her.

Irish American Hall of Fame

Mother Jones was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame in 2014

Her name on a bridge will bring an international perspective and recognition to the city as a place which does not forget its native daughters. She represents not just the international labour movement but people fighting for justice everywhere and her extraordinary courage was widely praised even by her enemies at the time. Even if one does not agree with her, she did earn respect and is entitled to it.

She was resilient, brave and fearless, a woman who amazingly operated in a man’s world at the time. These personal attributes make her an ideal candidate for this city to finally acknowledge her properly as a woman whose time has come and whose work for ordinary working people and children should be honoured by Cork city. Her resilience is symbolic of the resilient spirit of the people of this proud city.

She represents a symbol of hope and optimism for older people anywhere…..her activist career began when she was nearly 60 years old, an age when we are normally expected to retire. Her life shows what elderly people can achieve. She remained active until her late 80s. There are stories from West Virginia and Appalachians of her picture being hung on the walls of houses for decades after her passing.

Background and history.

Mary Harris was born in Cork in 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral. The actual baptism font remains in use. Although born in humble circumstances, she went on to become known as “the most dangerous woman in America” and is certainly the most famous Cork/ Irish woman in America.

Mary along with her family lived through the Great Famine in Cork and all had left Ireland by 1852 to travel on the coffin ships to Canada. She became a seamstress and qualified as a teacher and went to work in the United States. Mary married George Jones and they had four children. Unfortunately her husband and four children died in the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1867 and she was left destitute as a young widow at the age of 30.

She established herself as a dress maker but her business was burned down in the great fire of Chicago in 1871. Little is known about her until the late 90s when she became active in the growing trade union movement. She was by then about 60 year old, worked as an organiser for the United Mine Workers of America for several years and had become known as Mother Jones. In 1903 she organised the March of the Mill Children to highlight the abuse and exploitation of children in the mines and mills of the USA.

child labor

Child Labour – Mother Jones did more than anyone else to raise consciousness about the plight of young children working in mines and industry

She became a good friend of James Connolly during his time in America and worked for social justice. She knew four American presidents and it is estimated there were about 3000 newspaper reports about her work. She took part in all of the serious industrial/union disputes across the United States over the next two decades where she had become a legend to the ordinary people seeking justice and fair play.

She wrote her autobiography in 1924, in which the opening lines are “I was born in the city of Cork, Ireland”. Mother Jones eventually passed away in 1930. About 50,000 people attended her funeral which was broadcast live on a radio station. Another 40,000 turned up in 1936 for the dedication of the huge memorial on her grave in Mount Olive Cemetery in Illinois.

 

Mary Harris was a poor working class girl from Cork who went on to overcome adversity and personal tragedy in her life to become a legend to millions of people. She represents the true rebel spirit of the people of this city and county and fought for the exploited and oppressed. As a woman in a largely male world of trade unions and mining she became an inspiration hero to women everywhere and remains a potent symbol of the power of women.

Her detailed activism began when she was approaching 60 years of age which gives hope and optimism for what the older generations can contribute to social progress

Celebrating her achievements.

Her actions are celebrated in dozens of songs from Gene Autry, Andy Irvine, and Nimrod Workman to Gretchen Peters. “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain…..when she comes…… is a folk song that was likely riffed off a Mother Jones tale. A recent CD compilation of songs from the Mother Jones Heritage Project featured over 30 songs relating to Mother Jones. Several plays have been written including Can’t Scare Me…..The Story of Mother Jones by Ms Kaiulani Lee performed in Cork in 2015. A new musical has been written and performed by Si Kahn.

The Irish Ambassador to the US, Mr Dan Mulhall visited her grave monument in Illinois earlier this year to acknowledge her importance. The Mother Jones Foundation holds an annual dinner in her honour each year. She was inducted into the Irish/American Hall of Fame in 2014.

Amb. Mulhall at Mother Jones Grave at Mount Olive, Illinois

Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall, speaking at the grave of Mother Jones in Mount Olive, Illinois 2018

She features widely in US literature and in 2010, the US Department of Labour issued a poster featuring Mother Jones. The author Elliott J Gorn published the story of her life in 2002 (See Mother Jones ….The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Hill and Wang).

There are about 20 books written about Mother Jones in the USA, the most recent by Professor Simon Cordery in 2010. (who attended the 2014 festival). The largest circulating and respected investigative magazine in America, founded in 1976 in San Francisco is named simply Mother Jones in her honour.

Mary Harris/Mother Jones was totally forgotten in the city of her birth until the formation of the Cork Mother Jones Committee in 2011. This is a locally community based and independent committee which seeks to raise the public profile of Mother Jones and Cork across Ireland and the world.  In conjunction with the Cork City Council, the committee erected a plaque designed by Mick Wilkins in Shandon in 2012 to commemorate 175 years since her birth in the area. Even in its brief existence, local people contend that it has become one of the photographed iconic images in Cork city and one of the most cherished in the historic area. Hundreds of Americans and British have already visited Cork and gone to view this Plaque as a direct consequence of

Fr. Peter McVerry receives award

Homelessness campaigner Fr. Peter McVerry (centre) receives the Spirit of Mother Jones Award in Cork in 2015

our efforts, due to the huge publicity created around festival time.

This committee also coordinates the very successful “Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school” each August which attracts large crowds from all over the world and has featured speakers such as Gareth Peirce, Margaret Aspinall, Professor Rosemary Feurer, Fr Peter McVerry and a host of others. 2019 will be the 8th Festival.

The annual Spirit of Mother Jones award” is now among the most respected and coveted awards made to people deemed to have acted in “the Spirit of Mother Jones.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee along with Frameworks Films have documented the life of Mother Jones in a documentary “Mother Jones and Her Children”. We will forward a copy and ask you all to view it as part of your consideration of our submission.

We believe the future tourism potential for Cork city by a bridge being named after Mother Jones would be significant if it was marketed internationally especially to people interested in history and heritage. Her story is the ultimate story of human triumph by a woman over personal disaster. She would be an appropriate symbol for the city as it is an incredible story of achievement and endeavour over her long life and which resounds among people everywhere in the world. Many people can relate to her personal story.

Unique Opportunity to put Cork on the International Map.

We believe the City Council has an extraordinary opportunity to remember Mother Jones for posterity by finally honouring our native daughter Mary Harris. Having ignored her in this City for many years, she is finally achieving the recognition long overdue. As a woman, who fought for justice in spite of her age and personal tragedy, as a member of the famine generation who was an emigrant and as a member of the huge Irish diaspora she brought fame to the Irish race and to her native City.

Tourism Office, Cork

The Spirit of Mother Jones festival display in the window of Cork Tourist Office in 2016

She was a true Cork rebel and her City should seek to ensure she is remembered. Her growing popularity….. …with plans for a museum and statues and even a film in the United States would enable this city not alone to acknowledge publicly her achievements but would put the City of Cork in a favourable light among people interested in history, heritage, social issues and culture everywhere who might visit the city of her birth in the coming years.

Mother Jones was born nearby, walked those City quays when a young girl, probably said goodbye to her father and brother on those very quays and later herself left the same quays to emigrate to Canada when she began her journey to a new life, like so many millions of emigrants today.

If the purpose of a bridge is to help people to achieve their journeys, then let this bridge represent symbolically the journey of a young terrified girl who left Cork city, which had been a miserable place during the Famine years for the poor, and began her journey to a new life. She lived an extraordinary life, a life that gave hope to millions and surely that should finally reflect back to the City of her birth.

She never forgot her life in Cork and there are resonances of the famine in Cork with its death carts in the streets when she later speaks about the loss of her four children and beloved husband in the yellow fever epidemic in 1867. One can only imagine the horror for Mary Jones as a mother and a wife of the terrors of the famine repeating itself!

It would be somehow appropriate to welcome her home at last!

This is a perfect opportunity to honour and remember all of these people in perpetuity in Cork City.

We ask that you include Mother Jones for serious consideration when you decide to name this new bridge and decide to call it ………The Mother Jones Bridge.

November 8th 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peterloo Massacre – some Cork connections

Peterloo, a film by Mike Leigh has been released.  Starring Maxine Peake, Rory Kinnear, Neil Bell and Peter Quigley, and some 150 other actors along with thousands of extras, director Mike Leigh brings the events of that infamous day in Manchester to life.

Peterloo plaque

Plaque at the site of the Peterloo massacre, Manchester

On a sunny Monday afternoon, 16th August 1819, a large four-wheeled carriage adorned with flags and banners made its way slowly through the loud cheers of massed crowds towards the stage at St. Peters Field in Manchester. Seated at the front alongside the coachman was a small yet striking figure in a white dress waving a rectangular white banner, depicting a woman holding the scales of justice, while crushing a serpent, the banner of the Manchester Female Reform Society (MFRS).

Cork born Mary Pritchard (1789), now Mary Fildes, president of the newly formed MFRS cut an impressive figure as she proudly displayed her Society’s new banner to the vast crowd. She intended to present the banner and an address to one of the occupants of the carriage, Henry Hunt, the main speaker at the forthcoming monster Reform meeting about to commence. Reaching the small platform, the speakers along with Mary Fildes stood awaiting silence from the vast throng of working class men, women and children who had walked and marched in from the nearby towns across Lancashire seeking reform of the corrupt and elite electoral system. .

Henry Hunt

Henry Hunt

As the expectant gathering pressed closer to the platform and Henry ”Orator” Hunt began his speech, a band of Yeomanry advanced through the nearby streets, led by an Irishman Edward Meagher.

Mike Leigh’s film builds slowly up to a reconstruction of the 1819 Peterloo massacre. This peaceful pro-democracy rally attended by some 60,000 people who had gathered to hear the radical charismatic speaker and gentleman farmer Henry Hunt, was then attacked by British Yeomanry and Hussar Cavalry.

Using sabres wildly and viciously against unarmed people, they killed fifteen people (including a two year old child by the name of William Fildes) and injured upwards of 600 in this brutal and bloody massacre which became known as Peterloo (after the recent battle of Waterloo!). Later many suffered and died from infections brought on from the savage cuts received at the meeting.

Jacqueline Riding in her comprehensive publication Peterloo (with a foreword by Mike Leigh) states that women were very prominent in the attendance at St Peters Field. Four were among the dead or died later, upwards of a quarter of those injured were women and many including Mary Fildes were especially targeted by the Yeomanry. Mary herself was attacked initially on the platform by the special constabulary and later sabred by a yeoman. She managed however to escape from the field.

Upon her recovery, Mary continued to work for the rights of women. She was arrested while campaigned for birth control in the 1830s and later became a leading Chartist and influenced the original suffragettes. Ever the rebel she had named one of her children Henry Hunt Fildes. A grandson, Luke Fildes painted numerous social realism images of poverty, homelessness and injustice. She ran a pub in Chester and died around 1875/76 in her mid-80s.

 

The massacre caused outrage at the time, and led to a seismic shift in public opinion against the ruling clique and elites. It contributed to the founding of the Manchester Guardian in 1821 and later encouraged other Chartist newspapers as the clamour for democracy and reform grew.  Over in Livorno in Tuscany, the poet Percy Shelley raged on being informed of Peterloo and wrote The Mask of Anarchy………. “Rise like Lions after slumber in unvanquished number – Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you, – Ye are many – they are few.”

 

Mary Fildes

Mary Fildes with her banner (to left of platform)

The events of 16th August 1819 influenced the later development of the grass roots Chartism in the 1830s and lead to the People’s Charter. Henry Hunt, who died in February 1835 was regarded as a hero by many in Chartism. This in turn stimulated the later growth of the trade unions and the political mobilization of the working class into the Labour Party.

Indeed the events at Peterloo may well have aroused West Cork born Feargus O’Connor to stand for the post reform election in 1832, when he was surprisingly elected MP for Cork. Alongside reformer William Cobbett in the House of Commons, they supported what eventually became the Chartist demands. Both Fergus O’Connor and Daniel O’Connell organised the “monster meetings” based on the Peterloo example.

According to author James Epstein in his book “The Lion Of Freedom….Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement, 1832-1842, Chartist leader O’Connor regarded Henry Hunt as his hero and declared himself to be a “Huntite”.

“Year after year he travelled to Lancashire to celebrate the anniversary of Hunt’s birth with local radicals, and often took the platform at the annual meeting at St Peters Field held to commemorate the ‘never to be forgotten’ 16th August.”

Feargus O'Connor

Feargus O’Connor, Chartist

As with so much of history, the massacre has been largely forgotten and the story of Peterloo disappeared from classrooms, schools and universities. Many have never heard of the events which took place at St Peter’s Field. Few visiting Manchester and St Peter’s Square even notice the red plaque on the nearby Hotel. Most pass by and not realise that they tread on the very birthplace of British democracy and the roots of Chartism and the British Labour movement.

At that time, only a tiny minority of people, possibly 3% had the vote. Dorothy Thompson, author of The Chartists estimated that even later in the 1830s just 653,000 men from an English and Welsh population of 13,000,000 could vote and just 80,000 men in Ireland from a population of 7.8 million and that was after the Reform Act of 1832. All had to vote by open polling in public whereby each vote was recorded.

As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of Peterloo, Mike Leigh’s dramatic film should encourage people to examine the source struggles for reform and democracy and to perhaps ask again how a small increasingly wealthy and powerful elite can control political and technological structures across the planet and can dictate the working and living conditions for countless millions of ordinary people barely surviving under austerity and poverty.

The film arrives to a bitterly divided Britain….. Yet Leigh’s stark history and political lesson for those who hark backwards to a glorious past British epoch might remember the bloody sacrifices made by the innocent people on that field at Peterloo.

 

Note: If anyone has further information about the Cork roots of Mary Pritchard born in 1789, who married William Fildes, a reed maker in Cheshire in 1808, please let the Cork Mother Jones Committee know. It is not clear if the child William Fildes was related to Mary’s husband.  You can email us at motherjonescork@gmail.com

 

 

 

Dates for your Diary!

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that the next annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will be held from Wednesday, 31st July to Saturday, 3rd August 2019.

We will post further details of the event nearer to the time and as usual all will be welcome

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Timetable – Day 4 (Saturday)

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School

 programme 2018.

 

Saturday 4th August.

11.00  L   Frank Connolly,

NAMA-land…the inside story of Ireland’s property sell-off and the creation of a new elite”.

Firkin Theatre

2.30    L   Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

“Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, feminist, nationalist, socialist, pacifist – her activism in Ireland                                                           and the US”

Firkin Theatre

5.00    F    PRIDE

The true story of how a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists supported the                   families of Welsh miners during the 1984 miners strike. In association with the Quay Co-op and the support of Cork LGBT + Pride Week.

Firkin Theatre.

7.30    M  Toast and songs to Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street. Followed by music and festival closing events at the Shandon Plaza.

All are welcome.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018 – Information for Visitors

The 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018 starts on Wednesday, 1st  August and runs until the evening of Saturday, 4th August.  This year we have a new venue in addition to our now established venues at the Maldron Hotel and the Firkin Crane Theatre.  That new venue is the North Cathedral Visitor Centre at the side of Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Ann on Roman Street.  All three venues are within a few minutes walking distance of one another in the Shandon area just to the north of Cork city centre.

The Maldron Hotel
Maldron Hotel

The Maldron Hotel

The Maldron Hotel is situated on John Redmond Street in what was formerly Cork’s historic North Infirmary hospital.   All of this year’s Music events will be held in the cosy atmosphere of Bells Bar in the hotel.

 

 

 

 

Firkin Crane

The Firkin Crane Theatre

The Firkin Crane Theatre is just 200 metres from theMaldron.  This iconic circular building from 1855 was originally part of Cork’s historic butter market but is now used primarily as a centre for dance, especially ballet, and for other music and theatrical events.  The Firkin Crane will be the venue of a number of lectures / talks during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018

 

Cathedral Visitor Centre

Cathedral Visitor Centre

The Cathedral Visitor Centre is located to the rear of Cork’s North Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Ann) and can be accessed from just around the corner at Roman Street.  It is within 5 minutes walk of our other venues and will be the venue for many of the films and talks during the festival

Our sincere thanks the the management of all three venues for their assistance and cooperation with our festival.

How to get there:

Venue Map

Venue Map with Shandon Steeple at its centre

Bus Service.

The 202 and 202A bus travelling northside from the City Centre (Merchants Quay stop) will take one to the door of both the Maldron Hotel and the Cathedral Visitor Centre and to within 200 metres to the Firkin Crane Theatre.  The City Tour Bus stops also at the Firkin Crane Theatre as a regular stop on it’s City wide tour.
Walking distances.
Maldron is 5 minutes from Christy Ring Bridge (Opera House)
Firkin Theatre is 8 minutes from Christy Ring Bridge
Cathedral Visitor Centre is 10 minutes from Christy Ring Bridge.
Car Parks.
Pay car park in the grounds of the North Cathedral.
Carrolls Quay or Paul Street car parks are nearby.

Mother Jones talk in Dublin’s GPO, as part of “Rebel Irish Women” series

An important series of talks is currently being held in Dublin’s General Post Office (GPO) to mark the centenary of 1918, a pivotal year in modern Irish history. Over the course of the yar 12 lectures are being delivered on the role of women key Irish woman.  On July 19th the lecture will be on Mother Jones with a talk by Profesor Rosemary Feurer of Northern Illinois University, USA.  Rosemary is an authority on Mother Jones and has spoken at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork on a number of occasions.

Dr. Feurer’s talk on Mother Jones will be held at Dublin’s historic General Post Oiffice on Thursday, 19th July 2018 at 5.45pm sharp.  Admission is by ticket only but tickets are free and can be obtained online by visiting http://www.gpowitnesshistory.ie or by telephone to (01) 872-1916.

Rosemary Feurer

Rosemary Feurer atop Shandon Steeple, Cork during the Spirit of Mother Jones festival 2014

The Rebel Women series covers the lives of 12 Irish women who were featured in a 1935 book, Rebel Irishwomen, in 1935 by the renowned author and historian R.M. Fox.

 

One Woman’s Fight for Justice

 

Louise O'Keeffe

Louise O’Keeffe (Pic:: Courtpix)

Louise O’Keeffe describes herself as an ordinary West Cork woman and mother of two children. Yet this extraordinary woman took the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which in January 2014 found in her favour in a landmark judgement.

Louise had fought a long 20 year battle through  the Irish courts to get civil redress for the sexual abuse which she suffered in Dunderrow Primary School in Co Cork in the early 1970s for which her school principal Leo Hickey was convicted.  In 1998, Mr Hickey was charged with 386 criminal offences of sexual abuse involving 21 former pupils. He pleaded guilty to 21 sample charges and was sent to prison for three years.

Louise was deemed ineligible for compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board and so began her long journey, with the aid of her solicitor Ernest Cantillon, through the High Court, (January 2006), and the Supreme Court, (December 2008), which both ruled that the State was not liable.

Four Courts

The Four Courts, Dublin, seat of the Supreme Court

Following the Supreme Court decision, the State Claims Agency (SCA) wrote to 135 other people around the country who had made similar claims and effectively threatened to pursue them for legal costs if they did not drop their claims immediately. Many did drop their claims through fear of exposure to large legal costs!

Undaunted, Louise bravely continued her fight and on June 16th 2009 (Application no 35810/09) took her case to the ECHR which in January 2014 found the Irish State to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights for its failure to put in place any mechanism of State control to protect Irish schoolchildren from sexual abuse in relation to the abuse Louise had endured in primary school.

ECHR

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

On the day of the ECHR decision, Louise stated “This is a great day for the children of Ireland”. Two days later the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny on 30th January 2014 apologised to her for the “horrendous experience she had to go through” and he stated that she was “a woman of extraordinary commitment”.

There has been ongoing controversy about the Government’s interpretation of the ECHR’s finding. Many commentators such as the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and University College Cork’s Child Law Clinic suggest that the Government’s redress scheme is overly restrictive in its interpretation of the ECHR O’Keeffe finding. This appears to have now made it almost impossible for victims to qualify for redress as the State requires that a prior complaint of abuse must have existed in the school before the claimant was abused.

The Minister for Education appointed Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill as an independent assessor to examine appeals where the State Claims Agency decided claims were ineligible. Justice O’Neill has sought an explanation from the Minister as to whether the rejection by the adversarial SCA, of many claims on the grounds of evidence of prior complaint was consistent with the ECHR O’Keeffe judgement. Very few cases have been settled under the State scheme to date.

Louise O’Keeffe will tell the story of her fight for justice at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday afternoon 2nd August at 2.30 pm at the Cathedral Visitor Centre. All are welcome.

Mary Manning to speak at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones festival

Mary Manning, one of the Dunnes Stores Strikers will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School on Friday evening 3rd August at the Firkin Theatre in Shandon at 7.30.

Dunnes Stores strikers 2

Dunnes Stores strikers Karen Gearon and Mary Manning with the late Nimrod Sejake of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and ANC.

On July 19th 1984, Mary Manning went to work as usual on the cash registers at the Dunnes Stores, Henry Street branch in Dublin. Her union IDATU (Irish Distributive Administrative Trade Union, now Mandate Trade Union) led by Cork born John Mitchell had earlier instructed its union members not to handle South African products.

She describes what happened…

“My palms started sweating as I opened up my cash register. Everything after this happened very quickly. I spotted a middle-aged woman in the distance with two large yellow grapefruits in her basket. My heartbeat increased at the sight of them. I avoided eye-contact and popped my head down straight away. ‘Please don’t come to me, please go to any other till’ I thought to myself but the woman plonked her basket at my till, completely oblivious to the internal crisis unfolding within me.”

That morning, Ms. Manning refused to register the sale of those South African products. She was immediately suspended and another nine of her colleagues joined her on the picket line.

Striking_Back_ysj9-yi

In her recent book with Sinéad O’Brien “Striking Back – the untold story of an Anti-Apartheid Striker”, published by Collins Press, Mary describes the long months during which she and her union colleagues spent on the picket lines, even as the strike began to generate worldwide publicity.

She describes the ups and downs of the protest and gives a vivid account of the dark days of the protest when the young Dublin women and their colleague Tommy Davis felt very alone. Mary tells of her growing personal commitment to the strike and her increasing political awareness and independence unfolds as the daily grind of the strike continued for almost three years.

 

However the spirits, morale and determination of the strikers remained high in spite of the failure of some fellow workers to support them, personal sacrifices in the midst of a recession and being let down by some of those who should have provided support. Yet as the national support for the strike and widespread opposition to apartheid grew, it led to people such as Seamus Heaney, Christy Moore, Sean McBride Donal Lunny, the incredible Nimrod Sejake and thousands of people joining the strikers on the picket line in Henry Street and other protests in Dublin and elsewhere around the country. The resolve of the strikers began to make international headlines.

Archbishop-Tutu-medium

Bishop Desmond Tutu

In July 1985, the strikers attempted to visit South Africa to meet Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, at his invitation, but they were arrested at Jan Smuts Airport, refused entry and banned from the country. On their eventual return to Dublin, the strikers were introduced to the world’s media as “the ten deadliest shop workers in the world” by their union official, the late Brendan Archbold. It proved to be a huge international PR disaster for the apartheid system and the South African government.

As a result of the support for the strike, by April 1987, the Irish government had banned the importation of South African products and later Mary and some of her colleagues finally returned to work.  However as she and Karen Gearon were being treated within Dunnes Stores as the ringleaders of the strike she felt they were being singled out and all aspects of their work questioned and so finally Mary left the company. On the 5th November 1988, she emigrated to Australia, where she spent five years.

Less than six months after his release from prison after 27 years, on 2nd July 1990, Nelson Mandela arrived in Ireland and met the Dunnes Stores Strikers. He praised how the “ young shop workers on Henry Street in Dublin, who in 1984, refused to handle the fruits of apartheid, provided me with great hope during my years of imprisonment and inspiration to millions of South Africans that ordinary people, far away from the crucible of apartheid , cared for our freedom.”  Mary was unable to afford the flight to come back from Australia to meet Nelson Mandela.

On 18th May 2015 a plaque was unveiled on Henry Street, Dublin which commemorates the actions of Mary Manning and her colleagues….. brave and inspiring actions which had a worldwide impact.

 

Mary Manning now (Photo courtesy of Collins PressP

The Dunnes Stores Strikers were Cathryn O’Reilly, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Malone, Karen Gearon, Tommy Davis, Michelle Glavin, Liz Deasy and Mary Manning. Brendan Barron was suspended in October 1985 in Crumlin by Dunnes Stores for refusing to handle South African products.

Mary Manning accompanied by Sinéad O’Brien will tell the story of the historic Dunnes Stores Strike at the Firkin Theatre on Friday evening 3rd August. All are welcome.

Photos from opening day of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School

Above: The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald, Tony Fitzgerald being presented with an ornamental urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive by Jim Goltz of the United Mine Workers of America – on the opening night of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork, last night. Photo via William Hammond.

Julianna Minihan

Julianna Minihan who gave a most interesting talk about the life and work of U.S. social reformer and campaigner Florence Kelley,

James Goltz

James Goltz with framed proclamation from the International President of the United Mineworkers Union of America. This and two other proclamations presented by James to the Cork Mother Jones Committee can be seen in full on the Spirit of Mother Jones festival website.

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley of SIPTU who gave an informative lecture on “Revitalising the Labour Movement”

Ed Byrne (ASTI)

Ed Byrne, outgoing President of the ASTI who spoke on “Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical”

Ann Piggot makes presentation to James Goltz

Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Festival (and former President of Cork Council of Trade Unions) presents a memento to James Goltz on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ann Piggott presents Ethel Buckley

Ann Piggot makes presentation to Ethel Buckley on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ed Byrne of the ASTI with presentation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee presented by Ann Piggott of the committee.

Karen Underwood Sings the Blues – concert at the Maldron Hotel, Cork this Wednesday (2nd August)

Karen Underwood

Tickets are still available for the Karen Underwood concert which takes place at the Maldron Hotel this Wednesday night at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, starting at 9.30 pm.

Karen was born in Chicago in the early 60s at a time when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Her home was full of music and song and she absorbed many musical influences as a young girl from Nat King Cole to Church and Gospel music.

She arrived in Cork in her 30s around 1997 and settled in the city. Here she experimented with various musical genres however the music of her heroine Nina Simone was celebrated in her show “The Nina in Me” where she sings many of Nina Simone’s songs interspersed with commentary of life, her memories of America and the tragedy, joys and experiences of her life in Cork.

Karen’s version of “Mississippi Goddamn” is awesome while “Strange Fruit”, with its echoes of lynching in America resonate the growing fear in today’s Trump’s America. Her live performances are a tribute to her extraordinary versatility and her embracement of what life throws at one.

Karen has performed all over Ireland, including the National Concert Hall, the Olympia, the Gaiety and she has appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes.

Tickets for this festival fundraising show are €15 euro each (limited to 70) and are available from the Maldron Hotel, or from Nolan’s (Victuallers) 21/22 Shandon Street or phone 086 1651356. This show is highly recommended