Desmond Tutu, who has died today aged 90, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his stance against apartheid in South Africa.

His journey to the award ceremony in Oslo involved a stopover in London, where he asked some of the Irish Dunnes strikers to meet him.

The Dunnes Stores strike began on 19 July 1984 when 21-year-old check-out operator Mary Manning was suspended for refusing to handle South African grapefruit.

Nine of her colleagues at the store in Dublin's Henry Street walked out in support of her that day, beginning a strike that would last for two years and nine months.

The more the strikers learned about life in South Africa, the more determined they became not to give in.

Karen Gearon and Mary Manning went to meet Tutu in London with union official Brendan Archbold. The meeting gave the strike credibility, a moral boost and a lot of publicity.

A groundswell of support
Inclusion needed for peace

Speaking to the Féach programme on RTÉ, Tutu called for "a groundswell of support" for the strikers.

"They certainly have made their point, at very great cost to themselves and this is what I would commend them for," he said.

In April 1987, as a result of public pressure over the strike and the apartheid regime, the Irish government banned the import of South African goods.

Dunnes Stores strikers in Henry St, Dublin in 1984

Previously Bishop of Lesotho, in 1985, Tutu was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg, and a year later he became the first black person to hold the highest position in the South African Anglican Church when he was chosen as the Archbishop of Cape Town.

In 1991, he visited Ireland to meet Anglican Church leaders in Newcastle, Co Down.

He also visited Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin where he thanked the people of Ireland for their outstanding support in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

The archbishop gave a specific reference to the Dunnes Stores strikers who had refused to handle South African goods in protest at the apartheid regime.

It was in this context that Tutu made reference to Northern Ireland saying that any attempt for peace would require inclusive talks.

He said those with grievances, however same, whether real or imaginary, "must not feel excluded otherwise you can kiss goodbye to peace".

The archbishop said he was speaking from his own experiences in South Africa. "Where people feel excluded they are not likely to look kindly [on] the results of negotiations".

That same year, Tutu took part in the Afri Famine Walk in Doolough, Co Mayo.

"We are aware that there was a great deal of injustice, exploitation and oppression [during that time]," he said of the Irish famine.

The archbishop was a patron for Afri, a charity promoting global justice and peace and the reduction of poverty.

Tutu appeared on RTÉ's The Late Late Show in 2005, alongside Irish charity worker Niall Mellon.

Desmond Tutu on the Late Late Show in 2005

Presenter Pat Kenny asked him about the widespread poverty among the black population in South Africa.

"Our Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in its final report, said that unless the gap between rich and poor is narrowed and narrowed quickly and dramatically, we could just as well kiss reconciliation goodbye.

"I am amazed that people have been as patient as they have been," replied the archbishop.

Tutu celebrated his 80th birthday in 2011 with some festivities at St George's cathedral in Cape Town.

U2 singer Bono and his wife Ali Hewson were among the attendees.

Bono with Desmond Tutu at his 80th birthday celebrations in 2011

Archbishop Tutu had earlier that week criticised South Africa's ANC government for not issuing a visa enabling the Dalai Lama to attend his birthday celebrations.