Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 3 September 2015

Warrior for peace: Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Published 05/06/2010

Mairead Maguire with aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie
Mairead Maguire with aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie
Irish activist Shane Dillon arrives back at Dublin Airport after he was deported from Israel following a commando raid on the Gaza aid flotilla
Irish activist Shane Dillon arrives back at Dublin Airport after he was deported from Israel following a commando raid on the Gaza aid flotilla
Irish activist Shane Dillon arrives back at Dublin Airport after he was deported from Israel following a commando raid on the Gaza aid flotilla
Ibrahim Musaji's mother Fatima (left) and sister is Farhara are interviewed at their home in Gloucester, after Ibrahim was believed to be amongst those that were taking part in the aid flotilla attacked by Israelis
Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire standing beside the Cargo ship the MV Rachel Corrie 12/05/10
Demonstrators gather in front of the White House to protest against US funding of Israel in Lafayette Park June 1, 2010 in Washington, DC
Peter Venner was seized by Israeli authorities
Demonstrators gather in front of the White House to protest against U.S. funding of Israel in Lafayette Park June 1, 2010 in Washington, DC
Pakistani protesters who try to reach the US Consulate, confront police officers during a rally denouncing Israel's raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip, Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a Turkish national flag and shout anti-Israel slogans during a protest in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Tuesday, June, 1, 2010
Egyptian activists clash with riot police during a protest against the Israeli naval operation storming a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip
A protester hangs on a lamp outside Belfast City Hall
Gerry Adams with protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Deputy First Minister Minister Martin McGuinness who joined several hundred people in Derry's Guild Hall Square in protest at the raid on the aid flotilla which was travelling to Gaza
Some of the several hundred people in Derry's Guild Hall Square in protest at the raid on the aid flotilla which was travelling to Gaza
A protester hangs on a lamp outside Belfasat City Hall
Protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Actor Adrian Dunbar (right) joins protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
A large crowd of protesters stand at the entrance to Kensington Palace Green and the Israeli Embassy
An Hasidic Jew, a group who traditionally do not agree with Israel's action against Palestine, reads scripture during a campaign in Whitehall, London
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Turkish women shout anti-Israeli slogans during a protest in front of the UN house in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli Navy soldiers prepare to intercept several boats
Protesters burn a Star of David during a demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Monday, May 31, 2010
Israelis attend a demonstration in support of Israel following a deadly raid by the Israel military on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza
A border policeman looks on as Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010 in Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010 in Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010
Israeli Navy soldiers intercept several boats headed towards the Gaza Strip
Israeli Navy soldiers prepare to approach and board as they intercept several boats headed towards the Gaza Strip
Israeli Navy soldier stands behind a machine gun aboard a missile ship while Israeli Navy soldiers intercept several boats headed towards the Gaza Strip
An Israeli soldier carries a blood-stained stretcher back to an Israeli army helicopter
View from aboard an Israeli Naval vessel
Israeli Navy soldiers approaches a Navy missile ship
Israeli medics rush an injured man for treatment at the Rambam hospital in the northern Israeli city of Haifa
A Turkish man seen next to a sign in Turkish that reads "down with Israel" and "Free Gaza" as Pro-Palestinian Turks nearby shout slogans during a protest against Israel near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul
Protesters burn a Star of David during a demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli and foreign left-wing protestors hold placards against Israeli policies during a protest against Israeli naval commandos raid on a flotilla
Protesters clash with police officers outside the Israeli embassy in Athens, Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli police detain a masked Arab Israeli protester during clashes in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, Monday, May 31, 2010
A protester cries during a demonstration at Taksim square in Istanbul, Monday, May 31, 2010
Turkish and international activists seen on the deck of a Turkish ship shortly before Israeli forces boarded the vessel carrying humanitarian aid bound for the blockaded Gaza strip, late Sunday, May 30, 2010
Israeli police detain a masked Arab Israeli protester, center, as an Israeli journalist tries to interview him, during clashes in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010
Israeli left-wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip on May 31, 2010
Israelis attend a demonstration in support of Israel following a deadly raid by the Israel military on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza
Israelis attend a demonstration in support of Israel following a deadly raid by the Israel military on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza
Israelis attend a demonstration in support of Israel following a deadly raid by the Israel military on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza
Israelis wearing snorkels attend a demonstration in support of Israel
Israeli Navy Intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza
Israeli Navy soldiers aboard a boat as the Israeli Navy intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010
Israeli Navy soldiers prepare to disembark a missile ship as the Israeli Navy intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010
This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show an injured passenger on a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip
Image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aboard a military vessel in international waters off the Gaza
This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aiming a gun on the deck of a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters hold Turkish flags as they ride on their motorcycles during a protest in Gaza City, Monday, May 31, 2010.
Palestinians ride boats in Gaza waters as a flotilla of aid ships leaves for the blockaded territory (AP)
Israeli Navy sailors embark on the I.N.S. Hanit in order to stop a flotilla of activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza in spite of Israel's blockade May 30, 2010 in Haifa, Israel
Israeli Navy sailors embark on a warship in order to stop a flotilla of activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza in spite of Israel's blockade May 30, 2010 in Haifa, Israel
Pro-Palestinian activists demonstrate a day before the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists carrying 10,000 tons of supplies into the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Friday May 28, 2010
Palestinian members of the Hamas naval police and civilian defense officers ride a boat at Gaza port during a display of their preparations ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, Friday, May 28

Challenging injustice has been a long journey for campaigner Mairead Corrigan Maguire, back in the headlines for defying the Israeli blockade of Gaza, writes Alan Murray

Thrust into the media spotlight in 1976, Mairead Corrigan Maguire cut a timid, almost becalmed figure amid the chaos and fear of a truly frightening era.

Her niece and nephews — Joanne (8), John (2), and Andrew (six weeks) — lost their lives and her sister, Anne, was seriously injured when a car ploughed into them after a soldier shot dead the IRA man driving it, Danny Lennon.

Foolishly, we hoped that the tragedy of the Maguire family would shock the IRA into calling off its campaign.

My Irish Press colleague Ciaran McKeown became inextricably linked with the then Mairead Corrigan and another local woman, Betty Williams, to the extent that the Provisionals thought of shooting him. He wrote the Peace People’s original declaration, and helped organise the first cross-community marches, which attracted thousands of people.

The IRA did become worried about the potential of the Peace People to galvanise a community into resistance against it, and the Peace People’s Falls Road protest march, in particular, saw the Provisionals in their true colours as they orchestrated the mob to lob bricks and bottles at points along the route.

The 1976 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, after their mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of women to demand an end to paramilitary and military violence grabbed the imagination of the international media.

Camera crews flooded in from London and the European mainland as the movement for peace seemed to take a hold of Northern Ireland.

But with more than 300 fatalities here in 1976, more than 200 of them civilians, the Peace People grouping was overwhelmed by the sheer scale and unremitting barbarity of the conflict.

The following year, the death-toll diminished noticeably to around one third of the previous year’s carnage, and so, too, did the profiles of Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams.

The Peace People continued to exist, but the anti-violence fervour and the emotion of 1976 was never to be revived. Mairead’s sister, Anne, who was seriously injured in the accident that claimed her three children’s lives, died in January 1980 and, in September the following year, Mairead married Anne’s husband, Jackie Maguire.

Together they have raised Anne’s three other children, Mark, Joanne, and Marie Louise, and are the parents of John and Luke, who they raised outside Belfast in the comparative tranquillity of Strangford.

As a volunteer with the Catholic Church’s lay organisation the Legion of Mary, it was Mairead Corrigan Maguire’s natural inclination to continue to pursue her work with young people and prisoners through the Peace People.

She co-founded the Committee of the Administration of Justice — a group involved in the debate on legal matters and special laws — and studied at the Irish School of Ecumenics, pursuing inter-faith contact and picking up international awards along the way.

She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Yale University, the University of South Korea, the College of New Rochelle, and special awards from Trinity College, Dublin and St Michael’s College in Vermont.

Her international globetrotting is renowned — Korea, India, Africa, Bangladesh, Japan, Iraq and, of course, Israel and Palestine where in recent years she has concentrated more of her attentions.

In April 2007, the 66-year-old was struck in the leg with a rubber bullet fired by the Israeli Defence Forces, as she joined the Bil’in Peoples Committee on their weekly march from Ramallah to the ‘Apartheid Wall’ built by Israel in a bid to thwart Hamas terror attacks.

At a Press conference with the Palestinian Minister for Information, Mustafa Barghouti, she called for the wall to be demolished, and an end of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.

Since then, the situation in the Gaza Strip and Palestine generally has become more dangerous, and the humanitarian distress more acute — although the Israeli government disputes the latter assertion.

A member of Pax Christi, the International Catholic Movement for Peace, Mairead Corrigan Maguire says: “Wherever we are, wherever we live, we need to ask ourselves as Christians: if Christ lived in Belfast would he carry a gun and kill for a cause? If Christ lived in America or Britain would he support nuclear weapons . . . that could annihilate millions of our sisters and brothers in the world?” In the words of John Dear, the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the USA, Mairead Corrigan Maguire was “dismissed, ridiculed, and ignored, while those who called for vengeance and violence found an audience” in Northern Ireland. How true.

He describes her as a “gentle, life-giving, disarming spirit” who, since 1976, has been sowing seeds of non-violence throughout Northern Ireland and the world — one, he says, who is a persistent, gentle visionary.

Onboard the MV Rachel Corrie this week, Mairead Corrigan Maguire was perhaps internationally the best-known figure to attempt to defy the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Another brush with Israel looms for her, and while it is highly unlikely that she and her fellow passengers will succeed, few will doubt that her vision of non-violence will persist as it has done for the last four decades and more.

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