The Apartheid (1948 to 1994) in South Africa was the racial segregation and political and economic discrimination under the all-white government of South Africa which dictated that non-white South Africans were required to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities and limited contact between the two groups.
Trócaire supported on-the-ground projects in South Africa, campaigned on the international stage for an end to apartheid and engaged in education work with schools, youth organisations and other groups in Ireland.
Brian McKeown (first Director of Trócaire) said that the South African campaign was extremely important in the development of Trócaire, even in spite of criticism the agency received particularly along the lines that Trócaire should be giving money to feed the hungry and not getting involved in politics.
The fight against Apartheid
In 1974, just one year after the organisation was founded, Trócaire gave £2000 for the relocation of a carpentry school that had to be closed when the white minority government in South Africa declared, overnight, that the area in which the school was located was a white residential zone.
In 1976, Trócaire set out a detailed, clear analysis of the unjust situation existing in South Africa. Under the Apartheid system, Africans (68% of the population) owned only 12% of the land, and white people earned six times the amount earned by African workers. Trócaire committed itself to fighting such racism. Trócaire began to support adult education and leadership schemes to help combat the discriminatory and racist regime. Black people were being made aware of their own dignity and potential to bring about change in the whole system of apartheid by peaceful means.
From the early 1980’s Trócaire stepped up it’s advocacy campaign against apartheid including calling on the Irish Rugby Football Union to cancel a proposed rugby tour of South Africa in response to calls from justice and human rights groups inside the country. Trócaire launched a poster campaign ‘Apartheid Hurts’ and made a political stance calling for blocking of the secretive efforts by the South African Prime Minister to be received officially by the European Commission during his visit to Europe.
Trócaire Anti-Apartheid posters from the 1980s
Along with other European agencies, Trócaire was successful in persuading the EEC to set up the largest ever special fund to cope with an emergency situation; channelling more than ECU150 million to black organisations within South Africa. The highly publicised Dunnes Stores strike increased the pressure to impose sanctions on South African produce, which resulted in the Irish government announcing a ban on imports of fruit and vegetables from South Africa. Pressure was then applied on the Irish government to ban all trade, not just fruit and vegetables.