12/01/2009

Peace People Return To Belfast

A veteran of many 'peace' rallies in the 1970s - Mairead Corrigan Maguire - one of the original anti-NI Troubles 'Peace People', has addressed a large Belfast crowd to condemn the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza.

She was speaking at the weekend when the City Hall demonstration was held against the Israeli attack on the Gaza area.

The event called for an end to the conflict and saw about 2,000 people attend to hear speeches from members of the four main churches, trades union representatives and politicians.

Peter Bunting of the union, ICTU, which organised the rally, said the crisis in the region was a human one.

He said that the Israeli defence forces and Hamas must stop violent acts and start talking.

He told the crowd: "Talks and not bombs are the only way forward to achieve a two state solution, independent of each other, peacefully co-existing and governed by those elected in a democratic process whether or not we in the west or anywhere else agree or disagree."

Commenting, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ms Maguire said: "This is the collective punishment of 1.5m people," condemning how Israeli forces entered Gaza two weeks ago and the way the United Nations has been ignored in calling for a ceasefire.
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Máiread Corrigan-Maguire was the co-founder, with Betty Williams, of the Community of Peace People, an organisation which attempted to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The two women were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Corrigan became active with the peace movement after three children of her sister, Anne Maguire, were run over and killed by a car driven by Danny Lennon, an IRA man who was fatally shot by British troops while trying to make a getaway. Anne Maguire later committed suicide.

Williams and Corrigan brought 35,000 people onto the streets of Belfast petitioning for peace between the republican and loyalist factions - with crowds of (mainly) women from the Shankill and Falls Road converging on the city centre to unsuccessfully demand peace.

The weekend is not her only involvement in the Middle East. In April 2007, while participating in a protest against the construction of the West Bank barrier outside the Palestinian village of Bil'in, Israeli security forces intervened and Ms Corrigan was reported to have been hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet and inhaled tear gas, requiring medical attention.

However, the latest violence in Gaza sees Israel insisting it is trying to protect Israeli civilians from rockets fired from inside the Gaza Strip by Hamas and other militant groups.

But, health officials in Gaza say more than 800 Palestinians have died while Israel says 13 Israelis have been killed - irrespective of blame or motive.

See: Gaza Protests Slammed



(BMcC/JM)

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