All 11 of the former Dunnes Stores workers, whose strike of almost three years moved the Irish government to ban South African produce in the 1980s, attended Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa this weekend.
Three of the women – Mary Manning, Karen Gearon and Liz Deasy – also attended the memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Before they flew from Dublin one of them, Gearon, 49, who now works in Tralee, Co. Kerry, criticised former Dunnes boss Ben Dunne over his tribute to Mandela on the day of his death.
Dunne described him as a "fantastic man who stood up for his principles."
But Gearon said, "I would have no respect for Ben Dunne whatsoever. What he has said about Mr. Mandela is very strange when you consider how we were treated at that time."
The 1984 Dunnes strike was called when the then 21-year-old cashier Manning was suspended for refusing to check through a grapefruit from South Africa.
Manning, who now works in an office in Lucan, Co. Dublin, told the Irish Independent, "It is a great honor for us to go to the funeral of such a great man."
A street was named after her in Johannesburg.
Deasy said, "It will be very emotional. It will be amazing, to be there as a group, to go back, and to be let in this time."
The strikers went to South Africa in 1985 during their stoppage at Dunnes but were not allowed to enter the state.
Their strike was one of the longest in trade union history in Ireland and only ended when the government agreed to ban the import of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was over.
Mandela met the strike workers during a visit to Dublin in the early 1990s.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina attended the memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg on Tuesday, as did Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, the North's deputy first minister, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Also there were Bono from U2 and his wife Ali. Bono was a close friend of Mandela's and has been involved in African poverty and health issues for years.
Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern wrote that Mandela was the most inspirational figure he had ever met in his life in politics. Ahern referred to Mandela forming a national unity government when he was elected president, and appointing his white predecessor FW de Klerk to serve as his vice president. Mandela and de Klerk provided some of the inspiration for a new chapter of mutual respect and co-operation in Ireland.
But Mandela also was opposed to the IRA decommissioning its arms, according to former Belfast Telegraph editor Ed Curran who met Mandela at a lunch in Dublin hosted by media mogul Tony O'Reilly for his newspaper editors.
Curran recalled that before the lunch, Mandela met the Sinn Fein leadership at a time when the IRA's unwillingness to decommission its weapons dominated the political news.
Mandela told one editor that his position was that "you don't hand over the weapons until you get what you want."
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is traveling to South Africa this weekend for the Mandela funeral. He paid tribute to his friend Mandela in a statement.
"It was my privilege to meet Madiba many times; in South Africa, in Ireland and Britain. He was funny, engaging and modest and hugely supportive of the Irish peace process. Along with his comrades in the ANC he was very helpful and he had a depth of understanding of the twists and turns of our process," Adams said.
"He was very loyal to those including Irish Republicans who had helped the ANC in difficult times. His outreach to Sinn Fein in the '90s was resisted stridently by the British government and criticized by sections of the media."Here's some highlights from CNN:
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”