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Striking Back: The Untold Story of an Anti-Apartheid Striker

By Mary Manning with Sinéad O'Brien


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‘Young shopworkers 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.’

Nelson Mandela

Dunnes Stores cashier Mary Manning knew little about apartheid when, at the age of twenty-one, she refused to register the sale of two Outspan South African grapefruits under a directive from her union. She was suspended and nine of her co-workers walked out in support. They all assumed they would shortly return to work. 

But theirs were kindling voices, on the cusp of igniting a mass movement they couldn’t even imagine. Despite harassment from the Gardaí and disparagement from the Irish government and even the Catholic Church, they refused to be silenced. Within months they were embroiled in a dispute that captured the world’s attention.

In this searing account, Mary tells the extraordinary story of their public fight for justice, as well as her emotive journey of discovery into her family’s past. Mary’s mother had been forced to carry a secret burden of shame for her whole life by the same oppressive establishment Mary was fighting.   

Striking Back is a provocative and inspiring story that epitomises the resilience of hope and the human spirit, even under the most formidable of circumstances. It shows that each of us has the power to change the world.


  • Book Format: Paperback
  • Published: 2017
  • Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
  • Number of pages: 224
  • ISBN: 9781848893245
  • Illustrations note: B&W photos,
Striking Back is the best Irish book I have read this year
A captivating account…..beautifully expressed. A moving and inspirational book which has major relevance to today’s world.
A captivating account…..beautifully expressed. A moving and inspirational book which has major relevance to today’s world.
I have not been so moved by a book in a long time. It’s personal and political, intimate and artful. This is a voice rarely heard in Irish literature….fearful and brave and rendered with skill and depth. Striking Back should be part of every Irish child’s education…..this book should become a classic.
Striking Back is an inspirational and compelling read for anybody who has a voice and wants to be heard.
Mary Manning's story is one of courage and determination in the face of huge odds. At a time when Ireland was much more inward looking, a group of young people took a stand for what they believed in and made the Irish government - and the world - listen.
Mary Manning has written an account that is searing in its honesty about the strike and Ireland of its day.
Striking Back is a provocative and inspiring read … the background story of Mary’s mother's life was truly fascinating and unexpected. It's a beautifully written book and genuinely very difficult to put down.
Mary Manning has written a fascinating memoir about the Dunnes Stores strike and its aftermath. This is an intriguing insider account of a campaign that won plaudits from Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
A very, very interesting tale about very principled people.

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Striking Back Mary Manning with Sinéad O'Brien