Dunnes Stores Girls

IN this morning’s Irish Examiner I’m looking at the Wine Festival at Dunnes Stores which continues until September 28. There are reductions on some 150 wines including some classy numbers from the likes Antinori, Marqués de Cáceres, Errazuriz, Wolf Blass, Montes Alpha and Villa Maria. Here are some highlights from my shopping list.

Marqués de Cáceres Blanco (€9.99 €8).
A cracking crisp fresh value white.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay (€11.69 €9).
Citrussy acidity overlaid with warmer, richer tropical flavours.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (€12.85 €8).
Aromatic and zingy sauvignon blanc, this is terrific value at this price.

Montes Alpha Chardonnay (€19.99 €12).
An enormous buttery chardonnay – and its companion cabernet sauvignon is similarly reduced.

Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Sauvignon Blanc (€14.49 €10)
As intense, crunchy and tart as a fresh Granny Smith apple, a mouthwatering sauvignon blanc that beckons seafood.

Antinori Santa Cristina Toscana IGT (€10.35 €8).
The word ‘bitter’ is often taken to be a pejorative term, unfortunately, which is why I use it sparingly in my column: It sounds like a turn-off. But this lovely, tart, sangiovese merlot blend is a fine example of mouth-wateringly attractive bitter dark cherry flavours.

Artiga Old Vine Grenache (€12.99 €6.49)
The Grenache grape gets a good-value outing in this bright aromatic red.

Tautavel Cotes de Roussillon Villages Reserve (€13.99 €6.99)
handsome spicy creamy red.

Errazuriz Estate Merlot (€9.99 €8)
easy-drinking but delightfully ripe and expressive merlot.

Siobhan O’Driscoll and Ann O’Leary in part 2 of the programme on the TG4 player.

WHILE you’re at it, The Dunnes Stores Girls is a 20-minute film which you can view in two parts on TG4. It’s about Dunnes’ first store, which opened at 105, St Patrick’s Street in Cork in 1944. The programme takes its name from singer songwriter John Spillane’s hit single, and features a rendition of it as a bonus.

It’s a warm, soft-focus piece, mainly chatty reminiscences of women who worked there. But among their stories of work and fun and camaraderie are some stirring memories about events of the 1980s.

On Thursday July 19 of that year, Mary Manning, a cashier at Dunnes in Henry Street, Dublin, told a customer that she wouldn’t check through some Outspan grapefruit. It was part of a new boycott of South African goods in support of the ANC’s battle for human and democratic rights under the Apartheid regime in that country.

You may have believed that the strike was mainly confined to the Henry Street Store, that it was joined by just one other worker, in a branch of Dunnes in Crumlin.

Not so it seems.

In part two of the short film, Siobhan O’Driscoll and Ann O’Leary (pictured above) recall organising pickets of branches around Cork including Mallow, Ballyvolane and St Patrick’s Street. A colleague, Dorothy Humphreys, recalls a line of women blockading trucks that were attempting to make deliveries.

It’s a fascinating and all but untold story that deserves to be told in greater depth. If you want to follow it up, the dispute was covered in an episode of the Scannal series – Boycott! The Story Of The Dunnes Stores South Africa Strike. Follow the link to details about that film on the TCD Irish Film database.

Also, here’s an interview with Brendan Archbold on the RTE website. A union organiser during the strike, he went on to join the EU team overseeing South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. His first meeting with Nelson Mandela – in 1985 when he was still branded a “terrorist” – contrasts with a later visit to meet the then ex-president in 2008.

And finally, there’s a broader account of the anti-Apartheid movement and the part the Dunnes workers played in it in this History Ireland article.

Click picture to see full article on the History Ireland site.

Dunnes workers march with the Irish Anti-Apartheid movement.


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