Belfast Telegraph

Peace People movement founder dies

Ciaran McKeown was a journalist and civil rights activist.

A founder of the Peace People movement in Northern Ireland, Ciaran McKeown, has died (family handout/PA).
A founder of the Peace People movement in Northern Ireland, Ciaran McKeown, has died (family handout/PA).

By Michael McHugh, PA

A founder of the Peace People movement in Northern Ireland has died aged 76.

Ciaran McKeown was a journalist and civil rights activist.

The Peace People expressed popular revulsion to violence and were mobilised after an out-of-control car driven by IRA man Danny Lennon killed three children.

Lennon had been injured by British Army soldiers who were chasing him.

Anne Maguire had been walking along Belfast’s Finaghy Road North in Belfast in August 1976 with her children when the tragedy happened.

Eight-year-old Joanne, two-and-a-half-year-old John and six-week-old Andrew were killed.

Ms Maguire was badly injured and took her own life several years later.

Her sister Mairead Corrigan appealed for peace.

A neighbour, Betty Williams, joined her.

Mr McKeown met them and they founded the Peace People.

He had been northern correspondent for the Irish Press newspaper but left journalism to concentrate on the burgeoning peace movement.

Mr McKeown wrote a declaration signed by thousands.

He became the organisation’s chief strategist and sketched out a plan of rallies and marches which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in Northern Ireland, Dublin, London and elsewhere to call for an end to violence.

Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1976.

In 1978, Mr McKeown became the first person from Northern Ireland to address the General Assembly of the United Nations when he delivered a speech on behalf of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Mr McKeown was born in Derry in 1943 but spent most of his life in Belfast.

He had become involved in civil rights activism while a student at Queen’s University.

Mr McKeown later wrote a book, The Passion Of Peace, chronicling his years as an activist.

The writer subsequently returned to the world of newspapers, working at various times for the Irish News, News Letter and Daily Mirror.

As the News Letter’s political correspondent and frequent leader-writer during the 1990s, he wrote editorials endorsing moves towards peace, including reform of policing in Northern Ireland.

He was predeceased by his late wife, Marianne, and leaves seven children.

PA

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