Mairead Maguire: Nobel winner, veteran peace campaigner

4th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, among activists on an Irish aid boat vowing to reach Gaza on Saturday, is a veteran peace campaigner who is no stranger to run-ins with Israel.

The 66-year-old, who was joint winner of the Nobel prize in 1976 as co-founder of the Community of Peace People movement in Northern Ireland, said those on board the MV Rachel Corrie were "not afraid."

"We started out to deliver this cargo to the people of Gaza and to break the siege of Gaza, that is what we want to do," she said on the eve of the expected confronation with Israeli authorities.

The comments were typical of the combative peace activist, who campaigned for an end to fighting through the depths of Northern Ireland's three-decade long Troubles, which left some 3,500 people dead.

Maguire was born into a Catholic community in Belfast on January 27, 1944, the daughter of a window cleaner father and housewife mother, growing up with five sisters and two brothers.

After leaving school at the age of 16 she worked as a secretary while increasing voluntary activities, culminating in setting up the Peace People which won her the Nobel prize jointly with co-founder Betty Williams.

After that landmark she widened her activities to defending human rights around the world, along the way meeting leaders including Queen Elizabeth II, US president Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II.

In 1993 she accompanied six other Nobel Peace winners in Thailand in trying to enter neighbouring Myanmar to protest against the detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her commitment led her to clashes with authorities on a number of occasions: in 1994 she was expelled from the Philippines after attending a conference on East Timor.

More recently she threw her weight behind the Palestinian cause. In April 2009 she accused Israeli authorities of practising "ethnic cleansing" in East Jerusalem.

Two months later she was arrested by the Israeli army when troops boarded an aid boat heading for Gaza. At the time she was accompanied by former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who was also detained, before being deported.

Maried to Jackie Maguire since September 1981, she has two children: John Francis and Luke, born in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

© 2010 AFP

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