Mairead Corrigan was born in 1944 into a Roman Catholic community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the second of eight children. She became active with the Northern Ireland peace movement after a tragic incident in 1976 where her sister Anne’s three young children were run over and killed by an out of control car after the PIRA fugitive Danny Lennon was fatally shot by British troops.
Local resident, Betty Williams witnessed the tragedy and accused the IRA of firing at the British patrol and provoking the incident. She began gathering signatures for a peace petition from Protestants and Catholics and was able to assemble 200 women to march for peace in Belfast. The march passed near the home of Mairead who joined it.
The next march, to the burial sites of the three Maguire children, brought 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women together. The marchers, including Maguire and Williams, were physically attacked by PIRA members. By the end of the month they brought 35,000 people onto the streets of Belfast petitioning for peace between the republican and loyalist factions.
In 1977, she and Betty Williams received the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Mairead has continued her involvement in the organisation, taking on a more global agenda addressing social and political issues around the world in latter years.
In 2006, Mairead 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 Menchú Tum. The Initiative was set up 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.”