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Irish missionaries and the Apartheid struggle in South Africa

Structure de recherche associée à la MRSH : ERIBIA
Enregistré le : 18/06/2021 - Durée : 19mn54s - Réalisation : Université Caen Normandie
Lieu : En visioconférence

Dr Ciaran Reilly is an historian of nineteenth & twentieth century Irish history based at Maynooth University. His research interests include the Great Irish Famine; country houses and landed estates, and the Irish diaspora, with a particular focus on South Africa. He is the author of a number of books including Capard: An Irish country house & estate (2019); The Irish Land Agent, 1830-60: the Case of King’s County (2014); Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (2014) and John Plunket Joly and the Great Famine in King’s County (2012).

Abstract

Arriving in South Africa in 1976, Fr Edward Lennon’s missionary career commenced in an area known as ‘Zone 14’ in Sebokeng, part of the Vaal triangle, near Johannesburg. Here, in what a colleague described as ‘the end of the earth’, Lennon saw at first-hand the racial discrimination and social injustice that characterised Apartheid South Africa. Recalling these times, Lennon notes that ‘brutality was the order of the day. Our commitment was to be there to be present and to support. We spent a lot of time burying people, individual burials and mass burials. These were very emotionally draining experiences for families, for friends and for us who were close to so many who died’. Fr Lennon’s is just one of the many oral testimonies recorded in 2019, which shed light on the role of Irish missionaries during the Apartheid period. Using these oral histories, this paper examines the role of Irish missionaries in South Africa during the years of Apartheid and examines the impact and legacy of their work. Active participants in the Anti-apartheid struggle, their involvement ranged from political involvement to education, and included health and other forms of community engagement.

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