Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness misses out as peace award goes to Syrian rescue workers

By Allan Preston

An international peace award for which the late Martin McGuinness was nominated has been given to rescue workers in Syria. The 2016 Tipperary International Peace Award counts Nelson Mandela, Ban Ki Moon and the teen activist Malala Yousafzai as past winners.

Mr McGuinness' inclusion had been the source of controversy when the shortlist was announced in February, with some arguing his IRA past could not be excused.

He spent 10 years sharing power with the DUP as Sinn Fein's Stormont leader before his death in February.

Other nominees included Amnesty International (Ireland); the Kenyan-based Irish priest Fr Patrick Devine, who worked in Africa for 25 years to mitigate conflict and poverty; as well as Lady Rabab al Sadr, a Lebanese activist and philanthropist who worked with the Imam al-Sadr Foundation providing assistance to orphaned and dependent girls.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Syria Civil Defence White Helmets were picked as the winner.

The volunteer work force of around 3,000 people - who include bakers, tailors, electricians and carpenters - bring humanitarian aid and carry out repairs in some of Syria's most dangerous areas.

Politically neutral, more than 200 of their members have been killed since the group was started in 2013.

Speaking yesterday, Martin Quinn, who is Honourable Secretary for the Tipperary Peace Convention, said: "The award is a testament to the enormous bravery and courage shown by the White Helmets, who have saved more than 100,000 people, while upwards of 200 of the unarmed volunteers have lost their lives while saving others."

The award is to be presented on September 6 at the Great National Ballykisteen Golf Hotel.

In February, relatives of IRA victims wrote to the Tipperary Peace Prize committee to object to Mr McGuiness' inclusion in the shortlist.

Margaret Veitch, who lost her parents William and Agnew Mullan in the IRA Enniskillen bombing of 1987, was among those to say that she was "absolutely distraught", at Mr McGuinness' inclusion.

Speaking at the time, Mr Quinn said the shortlist was drawn up by an external group which his group did not interfere with.

"In order to protect the independence of the process, Tipperary Peace Convention does not enter into discussion on the merits or de-merits of any individual nominee who is shortlisted for the award," he said.

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