Nobel Winner Cautious on IRA Pledge to Disarm
JACKI LYDEN, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.
This past Thursday a cease-fire was declared in one of the world's longest-running conflicts. A message went out from the Irish Republican Army declaring all IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. And so, the IRA signaled its intention to abandon its three-decade-long armed struggle against British rule in Northern Ireland. `The Troubles,' as they were known, dominated Irish life, particularly in the city of Belfast. In all, at least 3,600 lives were lost, Catholic and Protestant.
Over the years, there were many voices calling for peace. One of the most urgent and effective was that of Mairead Corrigan Maguire. She co-founded the group Peace People in 1976, in the same year she and co-founder, Betty Williams, shared the Nobel Prize. We spoke with Ms. Corrigan Maguire earlier today and asked her why she got involved in the peace process.
Ms. MAIREAD CORRIGAN MAGUIRE (Peace People): On August '76, my youngest sister, Anne, went walking with her children and three of her children were killed in a clash between an active service unit of the Irish Republican Army and the British Army. And myself and Betty Williams and another young man, Ciaran McKeown, started the Peace People, and calling for people to come out and walk for peace. That was the beginning of the peace movement.
LYDEN: You went with your brother-in-law to the hospital to identify your sister's children, and you then went to a television studio where you broadcast an appeal. Do you remember what you said that day?
Ms. MAGUIRE: Yes, I did. I just made the appeal that we had got to stop the violence and there's got to be another way. And the most recent troubles had started in 1969 and, for seven years, every day throughout Northern Ireland we were living with bombs and bullets and death and destruction from many quarters: from the loyalist paramilitaries, from the IRA, from the British troops, from the police. We were suffering all sorts of violence on our streets.
LYDEN: How did you feel 30 years later when you learned of the IRA's announcement?
Ms. MAGUIRE: Well, I feel very delighted by this announcement. I think it is very important that the IRA has said that the armed struggle is over. But it is just a step because we have so much further to go.
LYDEN: Let me just ask you, as a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland, there really was such a grim atmosphere that there was a great lure for youth on both sides, all sides, to join paramilitary forces. Now there's been a lot more prosperity since 1998. Do you think things could ever slip back to the kind of sectarian violence that endured for so long?
Ms. MAGUIRE: Well, we have, after 30 years of violence, ethnic political conflict, we have inherited a deeply divided society, and a lot of problems. So we are not fooling ourselves that by the armed struggle being brought to cessation that that will solve our problem. In a sense, we are only taking the guns out of the situation. We now have the enormous challenge of really rebuilding our communities, rebuilding the trust, rebuilding the friendships and trying to reintegrate our community.
LYDEN: Mairead Corrigan Maguire helped found the Peace People in Northern Ireland in 1976 and has remained active in promoting peace ever since. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.
Ms. MAGUIRE: Thank you very much, indeed.
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