Mairead Maguire

And now for a modern day Irish woman.  Mairead Maguire was born in Belfast, 71 years ago today. Her entry into the world of political protest did not come without a price. A family tragedy in 1976 fueled her desire to bring change to her war torn community. Her nephews and niece were hit by a car when the driver (a (P)IRA paramilitary) lost control of it after being shot by the authorities. Betty Williams, a witness to the accident, capitalized on the tragedy using it to gather women in the community to march in protest of the ongoing violence and paramilitary activity in their neighborhoods. Mairead joined her. It was a surprising success and “Women for Peace” was spontaneously born. The second march that went to the graves of the children took place only a few days later and it included over 10,000 women—both Catholic and Protestant—an unusual feat in such a polarized place and time. It was attacked by the paramilitaries which only brought the women more press and support for the next march and the movement continued to grow. Mairead and Betty changed the name of their group to the gender-neutral “Peace People” and they continued to parade for peace between Republican and Loyalist factions.

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