The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Co-operation with Developing Countries today met a delegation from AFRI and some representatives from the Dunnes Stores strikers The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the workers’ action in relation to the handling of goods from South Africa with particular reference to the negative effect of Apartheid on development co-operation.
The committee is particularly aware of the moral problem posed by the existence of apartheid which it considers vicious in itself and a negative influence on the development effort generally in Southern Africa. The committee feels that, in line with Ireland’s publicly stated abhorrence of the apartheid system in South Africa, it should be opposed, both in word and action, at every level of Irish society.
In relation to the particular action taken by the Dunnes Stores strikers, the committee is aware that it’s industrial relations aspect is presently before the Labour Court and has confidence that the court will make every effort to try to bring about a reconciliation of both sides.
As an Oireachtas committee charged with examining Ireland’s development programme we are particularly concerned with that aspect of this dispute which relates to the exercise of freedom of conscience in a development-related issue. There is no doubt that there is a growing recognition of the right to the exercise of freedom of conscience in specific work-related situations eg. pharmaceutical/medical fields. We are hopeful this growing awareness would constitute an element in any eventual solution of this dispute. It was generally agreed by the members present that these particular workers in this specific dispute should be allowed the right to the exercise of freedom of conscience, as is available to some of our workforce
The committee unanimously commended the workers for having the courage to take a public and practical stand in an effort to highlight the evils of apartheid and expressed to them their belief that already a positive result of their action has been to focus the attention of the Irish public on the very complex issues involved in apartheid.
The committee undertook to investigate a number of issues which were raised in the course of the meeting.
Chairperson: Nora Owen T.D.
8 May, 1985.