Celebrating The Life of Marius Schoon

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Celebrating The Life of Marius Schoon & Open house.

On May 1st, Comhlámh is launching its new home at 12 Parliament Street. We’ll be unveiling a mural by street artist Katrina Rupit.  The mural celebrates the life of Marius Schoon, a leading South African Anti-apartheid activist.

Marius Schoon was the co-ordinator of Comhlámh between 1988-1991. This was a turbulent time for Comhlámh, yet he continued his anti-Apartheid work and inspired much of the human rights and refugee solidarity that defined later periods in the organisation’s history.

When Marius died on the 7 February of  1999, Nelson Mandela said he was “an enduring example of the fight for non-racialism and democracy. He destroyed the myth that all Afrikaners were racists and oppressors. He therefore will be greatly missed.”

Joining us on the night will be Marius’ widow, Sherry McClean. Originally from Dublin, she met Marius while volunteering in Tanzania in a school established by the ANC, before returning to South Africa with Marius in 1991. Finally, Brian Harvey an independent social researcher will discuss the challenges facing civil society in Ireland today.


Also present will be Cathryn O’Reilly, one of the Dunnes Stores workers who went on strike over the handling of South African produce.

On the night we will honour Marius with the official opening of the Comhlámh Member’s Room and the unveiling of a mural in his honour. Comhlamh has hooked up with Mexican street artist Katrina Rupert. We’ll also be reflecting on what it means for Comhlamh to go back to its roots as we launch a new membership scheme and solidarity circle.

Mark Cumming, head of Comhlámh said:

“The night is an occasion to reflect on the legacy Marius leaves for us as Comhlámh on the eve of our 40th birthday. The issues may have changed but the growing inequality of our time, the financial crisis, and the threat of climate change call for new models and new visions of development for here and the rest of the globe.  Comhlámh members have played a key role in shaping the agenda on global development here.  Whether this was on Apartheid, Fair Trade and the wider trade justice movement, the government’s commitment to 0.7% of GDP for the aid budget, the rights of women, the rights of refugees, the accountability of NGOs.”

Brian Harvey said:

“Marius Schoon belonged to the small but honourable band of those with an Afrikaans background who took a stand against apartheid.  He and his family paid dearly and he spent a significant part of his life in exile.  He was a person of calmness but determination, a reminder to us all of the importance of taking a principled political stand against injustice.  The recent research of the Advocacy Initiative Are we paying for that? (2014) found that in present-day Ireland our state is, today, intolerant of dissent by voluntary and community organizations, especially those that speak out for global justice.  Numerous examples were cited of the state bullying and even taking away the funding of those that made even mild criticisms of development policies and issues.  Marius Schoon showed how we – be that at individual or organizational level – should stand up for our principles.  His challenge is still with us.”

Fritz Schoon, Marius’ son described coming to Ireland:

“Marius and I arrived in Ireland on the back of what was a very traumatic experience for us both. The Irish government was kind enough to grant us both citizenship on compassionate grounds. Over and above this gesture, Marius and I received compassion and generosity in many forms from Ireland and its people. As testament to this Marius, speaking of his time in Ireland, reported – in the Rift, by Hilda Bernstein – that ‘I really feel that for the last two or three years, for the first time in my life, literally, I’ve got a stability and a security that I’ve never had. I am actually enjoying the security that we have at the moment.”

“Marius identified with the similarities between the Irish struggle for independence and South Africa’s struggle to be free of legalised discrimination, as well as with other similar struggles around the world, including in Palestine for instance. He was only too aware that freedom has to be fought for, and a price will often have to be paid as part of the fight.”



Kathrina Rupit, the street artist known as KIN MX said:

“It has been really interesting to do this project, not long ago I had a racist experience my self for first time in Ireland, I was attacked by an Irish guy while I was painting a mural for a commissioned legal project. I was really disappointed, angry and sad, I never expect things like this will happen to me in this country. People in Ireland don’t know this kind of injustice still happens, I live with 3 other people from abroad and I’m not the only one with these kind of issues.”

If you are interested in coming along please email susan@comhlamh.org so we can be aware of numbers.


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