Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Mairead Corrigan Maguire was not actively involved with the Northern Ireland peace movement until she came face-to-face with violence in 1976. On August 10th, Danny Lennon and John Chillingworth of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), were driving through Belfast, with a rifle in their car. The IRA wanted to form a united Ireland through physical force that would be outside of United Kingdom control.

British troops, claiming that the rifle had been pointed at them, opened fire on the car, instantly killing Lennon and seriously wounding Chillingworth. The car veered onto the sidewalk striking Mairead’s sister, Anne, and three of her children. While Anne survived, her three children died. Another peace activist, Betty Williams, also witnessed the crash and assembled 200 women to march for an end to the violence. When the marchers passed by Maguire’s home she quickly joined in.

Shortly after the march, Community of Peace People was founded by Maguire and Williams based on their shared belief that reconciliation was possible through the gradual integration of schools, residential areas, and athletic clubs. Community of Peace People organized summer camps for Catholics and Protestant youths in an effort to create friendships in a secure and tolerant environment. The organization also published a biweekly paper, Peace by Peace, and provided families of prisoners bus service to and from Belfast’s jails.

In 1976, Maguire and Betty Williams were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their contributions to the resolution of the problems in Northern Ireland. Since winning the award, Mairead Corrigan Magurie co-founded the Committee on Administration of Justice, a human rights organization that has been actively involved in the attempt to free political prisoners world-wide, from Nobel Peace Prize winners Burma’s Aung San SuuKyi to China’s Liu Xiaobo.