Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire (born 27 January 1944), also known as Mairead Corrigan Maguire and formerly as Mairead Corrigan, is a Northern Irish peace activist. She co-founded, with Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, the Community of 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. Maguire has also won several other awards. Though Betty Williams resigned from the Peace People in 1980, Maguire has continued her involvement in the organization to this day. It has since taken on a more global agenda, addressing an array of social and political issues from around the world.

Maguire has been involved in a number of campaigns on behalf of political prisoners around the world. In 1993 Maguire and six other Nobel Peace Prize laureates tried unsuccessfully to enter Myanmar from Thailand to protest the protracted detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She was a first signatory on a 2008 petition calling for Turkey to end its torture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In October 2010, she signed a petition calling for China to release Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo from house arrest.

Maguire was selected in 2003 to serve on the honorary board of the International Coalition for the Decade, a coalition of national and international groups, presided over by Christian Renoux, whose aim is to promote the United Nations’ 1998 vision of the first decade of the twenty-first century as the International Decade for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.

In 2006, Maguire was one of the founders of the Nobel Women’s Initiative along with fellow Peace Prize laureates Betty Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Jody Williams, and Rigoberta Menchu Tum. The Initiative describes itself as six women representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa who decided to bring together their “extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality” and “to help strengthen work being done in support of women’s rights around the world.”

Mairead Maguire is an outspoken critic of U.S. and British policy in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also been personally critical of U.S. President Barack Obama’s leadership. Her activism in the U.S. has occasionally brought her into confrontations with the law.

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 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 defense, 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.

“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

December 2012