A Tale Of Two Corrigans

Here is an odd thing.Yesterday I was looking thru the Amnesty International website when I spotted a blog by Patrick Corrigan, the Amnesty Man in Belfast and occasional contributor to letsgetalongerist website Slugger O’Toole. The blog was actually a text of a speech made to G8 protestors at Belfast City Hall on Saturday. It was scathing about United States record on human rights and foreign policy.
But curiously less than 48 hours later, Mr Corrigan was in the Waterfront Hall…in the VIP Section, directly behind Peter Robinson, the First Minister and beside Mark Carruthers of the BBC.
I commented on his blog, asking him if he had used the opportunity to make the same points he had made to protestors just two days previously. If he replies, I will let you know.
I do not know how many of the trade unionists from NIPSA, Unison etc who listened to Mr Corrigan on Saturday got tickets to the Waterfront.
Of course President Obama name-checked many who had worked for Peace…Hume, Trimble, Paisley and Adams. And of course the nice lady in Alexandra Park. But did he mention Mairead Corrigan?
Who is Mairead Corrigan?
Her sisters three children were killed in 1975…knocked down by a car driven by an IRA volunteer who was shot dead by the British Army. The incident led to the formation of the Peace People, which Mairead Corrigan co founded with Betty Williams. It was a short-lived mass movement…the first organised Peace Movement of the Troubles.
Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.
There was of course controversy. Divisions within the Peace People over the fate of the Nobel Peace Prize money, the perception (which I shared and still share) that the movement was naive and certainly exploited by the British Government. Ultimately the Peace People disintegrated after just a few years later.
But it remains a fact that Mairead Corrigan is a Nobel Peace Laureate.
So why was she not in the Waterfront yesterday alongside her namesake Patrick? Did she not deserve to be there?
Did she not deserve a mention (maybe she was) as much as Rory McIlroy and “Dame” Mary Peters.
Where was she?
Well she was at Belfast City Hall…protesting about American policy in Syria and other places. Ms Corrigan takes Peace seriously. She was on a ship seized by Israelis as it tried to get to the Gaza Strip to aid Palestinians.
Perhaps Mairead Corrigan is the wrong type of Nobel Peace Laureate.
Patronised by the Establishment in 1976, she is now a marginalised figure.
A lesson surely for those kids in the Waterfront Hall who were patronised shamelessly yesterday.

Which is better? Quiet Diplomacy? Confrontation?
Which Corrigan has it right?
Who is “Wrong Way Corrigan”?

(If you dont know the reference…Douglas Corrigan was an American aviator who in 1938 filed a flight plan from New York to Los Angeles and landed in Ireland…and was dubbed “Wrong Way Corrigan”)

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13 Responses to A Tale Of Two Corrigans

  1. I was too young for the “Peace Women” phenomenon..

    The only thing I really remember about them is that middle-aged American actresses with dreadful Irish accents kept turning up in various American TV shows from the 1970s and ’80s, like Magnum PI or Colombo, playing these Oirish female characters visiting the United States to promote “p’ace in Oirland” while under threat from brutish Oirish guys and their Orish-American cousins who for some reason all wore red wigs. It was only much later that I learned about the inspiration for those characters.

    • Occasionally played by Fionnuala Flanagan.
      there was a timebwhen every American show had an Oirish episode.
      kojak, Lou Grant, Cagney and Laceynand Starsky and Hutch.
      Interestingly a show called JAG where the IRA guy was the good guy and the Norn Iron police were the baddies.

    • The Peace Women were just that …a phenomenon.
      they came and went.
      Of course the tragic circumstances of their formation transcended Politics
      and one which most people could identify.
      Of course for WOMEN…and I dont say it judgementally there was no context to the intial accident in which three children were killed.
      Difficult to talk about nuance.
      But certainly the British saw an opportunity to exploit them.
      But really it was all over within a very short time.
      When Ciaran McKeown became involved, they had a more organised and less spontaneous feel. And of course the MONEY made a difference.
      But the context in my blog is that Mairead Corrigan had for a very short time access to NIO, White House, the Media….when it was perceived that she was “onside” and non political. Now that she is involved in other campaigns, even though the theme is Peace….she is marginalised.
      And this will potentially happen to all the Peacemakers. They will be chewed up by the political establishments. And of course Victims. like Ann Travers.

      • There was definitely a hostile vibe in Republican circles from the older generation if the Peace People were mentioned back in the day. More so than say the likes of the Parry and Bell families where sympathy, shame and embarrassment were expressed. Some people I knew believed that the PP had done a lot of harm to the movement, especially internationally, during a crucial period. My own impression, admittedly third hand, was a grouping that only cared about Republican actions and glossed over the British component to the conflict. Probably unfair but the recent special advisor controversy brought all that to mind. The hierarchy of victims and the manipulation by others for their own political agendas – yet again.

      • Youre definitely right about the hostility.
        But I wouldnt make a direct comparison with the Warrington thing as circa 1993 was a very different place from the 1970s.
        As I recall the Republican hostility was because one of their own was killed…Danny Lennon. And the Republicans felt that the Brits were responsible. …details are now hazy with me. I think there had been a shooting incident or the Brotish claimed there was and Danny Lennon was shot and lost control of the car.
        There had been people killed in crossfire before and dismissed as the natural consequence of war.
        I think IRA could have handled it better. Yes, it was a tragic accident but they could have been more understanding.
        The attitude was that “stuff happens” and it was at a bad time.A more ruthless callous command structure than the men of 1970-72. Those guys would have handled it better.
        On reflection, the Women did not allow for any nuance …this was children after all….and initially they got a very hard time from Republican women. Effectively a series of cat fights up and down the Falls Road. The sensible tactic would have been to rein the republican women back in and to allow the Peace WWomen to blow themselves out.
        It was pretty inevitable to me that the Women were being controlled. It was almost as if the British Government and possibly the Churches had been waiting on a single incident on which to hang a campaign andthey were handed it on a plate and like I said the situation made much worse.
        But the seeds of self destruction were already there.
        rank and file peace women thought that the Peace People deserved the cash…and it was controversial that one or both women said they were keeping it.
        Betty Williams moved to USSA. she was always the harder anti-republican.
        They were an unlikely pair.
        and this coincided roughly with the rise of the prison protests and increasingly obvious manipulation of Peace.
        all in all, it was a footnote to the Troubles….and seemingly now airbrushed out completely.

  2. hoboroad says:

    Mr McKeown has a column in the local version of the Daily Mirror.

  3. JAG, “Trinity” episode 😉

    Could be worse. Have you seen the Sons of Anarchy and their Oirish characters (let alone the episodes in Ireland). Beyond stereotyping and well into the realm of simple racism.

    • Ive never seen Sons of Anarchy.
      Star Trek Next Generation was guilty of Irish stereotyping ina Season 2 episode called Up The Long Ladder.
      On the other hand they redeemed themselves in an episode on Terrorism when Data announced Irish unity had been achieved in 2014.
      My father who knew local actors such as Lily Begley, JG Devlin and Joe Tomelty was always annoyed at Oirishness on BBC…stage Irish he called it.
      Most TV Western series of the late 1950s usually feature an Oirishman ….an actor called Sean McClorey or McClory specialised in these parts.
      check out his credits on IMDB

  4. Thanks for the plug for my speech at the Fairer World rally (link: http://www2.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/belfast-and-beyond/g8-must-put-rights-heart-decisions).

    I meant every word and repeated its messages to anyone and everyone I met at the Waterfront speech event. That didn’t include President Obama (whom I didn’t get near!) but did include many local figures, including the Chief Constable, the Secretary of State and the Minister for Justice – to all of whom I addressed Amnesty’s questions regarding the scale and public messaging around the police operation directed at protests such as the march and rally on Saturday at which this speech was given. None of them agreed with me – I didn’t expect they would – but I made sure I seized the opportunity to directly raise our concerns anyway. I also used the opportunity to do interviews with some of the assembled international media and got a chance to repeat my message that President Obama should shut Guantanamo, etc if he wants to enhance his credibility on peace and justice issues around the world.

    In part, that’s my job: to speak out, lobby, influence, encourage, protest and communicate Amnesty’s human rights messages when and where we can most make a difference. Last week those opportunities have ranged from rallies outside Belfast City Hall to an invitation-only speech in the Waterfront Hall, to demonstrating outside the gates of the G8 summit in Fermanagh, as well as a public meeting of eight people in Antrim and a film screening about the G8 in Genoa to an audience of 12. Right now it’s hard to say which of those events will bear the most fruit, but my money is on the public meeting in Antrim, which marked the start of a new Amnesty branch in the area (contact us at nireland@amnesty.org.uk if you want more details).

    You ask how many of the trade unionists with whom Amnesty marched, were also at the Waterfront event – no idea, but I certainly spotted and talked to Patricia McKeown of UNISON. She too tries to never miss any opportunity to get her message across, even or perhaps especially if those on the receiving end would sometimes prefer that she didn’t. That’s her job too.

    As for Mairead Maguire – she is someone I am proud to call a friend and former colleague. Luckily for Mairead, she doesn’t do what she does to gain ‘recognition’. Whether on the receiving end of stone-throwing from republicans in 1976 or jail-time from the Israelis a couple of years ago, Mairead refuses to be deterred from delivering her message of nonviolence.

    • Can you confirm that Mairead Corrigan did not get an invite to the event ( you probably wont actually know).
      But can you confirm that a Nobel Laureate (won for Peace in Norn Iron ) was not actually mentioned at all in President Obamas speech.
      And that if so…its a total disgrace.

      • And it looks like we can clear up the mystery of the non-publishing of your first post.
        You submitted both today… 12.36pm and 12.38pm ( those times are probably an hour out because of my settings).

      • No idea re invitations to the event. Obama’s speech is a matter of public record, so you can check for yourself, but I don’t recall any mention of Nobel Prizes (even his own, thankfully). I can assure you I did submit a comment days ago, despite your inference otherwise, but obviously didn’t get as far as you (undoubtedly my inability to negotiate your logins first time round).

      • There is absolutely no inference.
        All I know is that nothing actually arrived.
        For the record, I have great difficulty posting comments on the Blogger orBlogspot sites.

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