Mairead Maguire (born 27 January 1944), also known as Mairead Corrigan Maguire and formerly as Mairad Corrigan, is a peace activist from Northern Ireland. She co-founded, with Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, the Women for Peace, which later became the Community for Peace People, an organization dedicated to encouraging a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Maguire and Williams were awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize.
In recent years, she has criticised the Israeli government’s policy towards Gaza, in particular to the naval blockade. In June 2010, Maguire went on board the MV Rachel Corrie as part of a flotilla that unsuccessfully attempted to breach the blockade.
Personal philosophy and vision
|Gandhi taught that nonviolence does not mean passivity. No. It is the most daring, creative, and courageous way of living, and it is the only hope for our world. Nonviolence is an active way of life which always rejects violence and killing, and instead applies the force of love and truth as a means to transform conflict and the root causes of conflict. Nonviolence demands creativity. It pursues dialogue, seeks reconciliation, listens to the truth in our opponents, rejects militarism, and allows God’s spirit to transform us socially and politically.|
|Mairead Maguire, Santa Clara University|
Mairead Maguire is a proponent of the belief that violence is a disease that humans develop but are not born with. She believes humankind is moving away from a mindset of violence and war and evolving to a higher consciousness of nonviolence and love. Among the figures she considers spiritual prophets in this regard are Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Fr. John L. McKenzie, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Maguire professes to rejects violence in all its forms. “As a pacifist I believe that violence is never justified, and there are always alternatives to force and threat of force. We must challenge the society that tells us there is no such alternative. In all areas of our lives we should adopt nonviolence, in our lifestyles, our education, our commerce, our defence, and our governance.” Maguire has called for the abolition of all armies and the establishment of a multi-national community of unarmed peacekeepers in their stead.
The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland
Maguire has written a book, The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland. Published in 2010, it is a collection of essays and letters, in many of which she discusses the connections between her political activities and her faith. Most of the book is about Northern Ireland, but Maguire also discusses the Holocaust, India, East Timor, and Yugoslavia. Maguire writes that “hope for the future depends on each of us taking non-violence into our hearts and minds and developing new and imaginative structures which are non-violent and life-giving for all…. Some people will argue that this is too idealistic. I believe it is very realistic…. We can rejoice and celebrate today because we are living in a miraculous time. Everything is changing and everything is possible.”
Awards and honours
Maguire has received numerous awards and honours in recognition of her work. Yale University awarded Maguire an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1977. The College of New Rochelle awarded her an honorary degree 1978, as well. In 1998 Maguire received an honorary degree from Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver, Colorado. The University of Rhode Island awarded her an honorary degree in 2000. She was presented with the Science and Peace Gold Medal by the Albert Schweitzer International University in 2006, for meaningfully contributing to the spread of culture and the defence of world peace.
In 1990 she was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award, named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that called upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. The Davenport Catholic Interracial Council extolled Maguire for her peace efforts in Northern Ireland and for being “a global force against violence in the name of religion.”Pacem in terris is Latin for “Peace on Earth”.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation honoured Maguire with the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award in 1992, “for her moral leadership and steadfast commitment to social justice and nonviolence.”
Nobel Prize decision and Peace People movement
Referring to the decision to award Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, journalist Michael Binyon of The Times commented, “The Nobel committee has made controversial awards before. Some have appeared to reward hope rather than achievement.” He described as sadly “negligible” the two women’s contribution to bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
Alex Maskey of Sinn Fin charged that at the time of the Troubles, the Peace People movement was hijacked by the British government and used to turn public opinion against Irish republicanism. “For me and others, the Peace People and their good intentions were quickly exploited and absorbed into British state policy,” Maskey opined.
Derek Brown, the Belfast correspondent for The Guardian, wrote that Maguire and Betty Williams were “both formidably articulate and, in the best possible sense, utterly naive.” He described their call for an end to violence in response to the will of the people as an “awesomely impractical demand.”
In his extensive study of the Peace People movement, Rob Fairmichael found that the Peace People were seen by some as being “more anti-IRA than anti-UDA,” i.e. less loyal to republican factions than to loyalist ones. Fairmichael also noted that “Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were beaten up numerous times and at times the leaders were threatened by a hostile crowd.” Fairmichael noted, as examples of forms that some of the extreme negative reactions took.
Prize money controversy
While most Nobel Prize laureates keep their prize money, it is not uncommon for prize winners to donate prize money to scientific, cultural or humanitarian causes. Upon announcing their intention to keep their prize funds, Maguire and Williams were severely criticised. The move angered many people, including members of the Peace People, and fuelled unpleasant rumours about the two women. Rob Fairmichael writes of “gossip of fur coats” and concludes that the prize money controversy was perceived by the public, in the context of the Peace Peoples eventual decline, as specifically problematic.
Jewish and Israeli reactions
In the wake of the 2009 Gaza flotilla, Ben-Dror Yemini, a popular columnist for the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, wrote that Maguire was obsessed with Israel. “There is a lunatic coalition that does not concern itself with the slaughtered in Sri Lanka or with the oppressed Tibetans. They see only the struggle against the Israeli Satan.” He further charged that Maguire chose to identify with a population that elected an openly antisemitic movement to lead it one whose raison d’etre is the destruction of the Jewish state.
Eliaz Luf, the deputy head of the Israeli foreign mission to Canada, has argued that Maguire’s activism plays into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist organisations in Gaza.
Michael Elterman, Chairman of the Canada-Israel Committee Pacific Region, warned that Maguire’s actions, though probably well-intentioned, have promoted a hateful, antisemitic agenda.
In an 4 October 2010 editorial entitled “The disingenuous Nobel laureate,” The Jerusalem Post called Maguire’s comparison of Israel’s nuclear weapons to the gas chambers of Auschwitz “outrageous” and maintained that “Israel can and must use its sovereignty to stop people like Maguire who are essentially seeking to endanger the lives of Israeli citizens.” The Post applauded Maguire’s expulsion from Israel, “not because of Maguire’s outrageous comparison in 2004 of Israels purported nuclear capability to Auschwitzs gas chambers, nor because of her absurd, reprehensible accusation made in court Monday that Israel is an apartheid state perpetrating ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, but because she had taken actions that undermine Israels ability to protect itself.
The Post argued that if Maguire and others truly desire to improve the lives of Gazans, they should send their humanitarian aid in coordination with Israel, pressure Hamas and the other radical Islamists who control the Gaza Strip to stop senseless ballistic attacks on Israeli towns and villages, kibbutzim and moshavim, and insist that Hamas provide Gazas citizens with a stable, responsible leadership that respects human rights and religious freedom, as well as that it accept the UN-recognized right of the Jewish people to self-determination and political sovereignty in their historical homeland. But Maguire seems more intent on enabling Israels terrorist enemies, exploiting charges of a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Gaza in order to empower Hamas terrorists. Jewish and Israeli opinion is not all negative. Following the June 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was careful to distinguish between Mairead Maguire’s nonviolent resistance aboard the Rachel Corrie, which he referred to as “a flotilla of peace activists with whom we disagree, but whose right to a different opinion we respect,” and the conduct of the activists aboard the other six vessels, which he described as “a flotilla of hate, organized by violent, terrorism-supporting extremists.”Gideon Levy strongly defended Mairad Maguire in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in October 2010, calling her “the victim of state terror” after Israel refused to allow her to enter the country and kept her detained for several days.