Mairead Corrigan Maguire discusses the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland
BROADCAST: Dec. 1, 1993 | DURATION: 00:46:08
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mairead Corrigan Maguire discusses the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, and around the world. Maguire, an Irish peace activist, founded Community of Peace People.
Studs Terkel About 17 years ago Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams who won the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 1976 and they were here in '77. And again the word is "peace" isn't it, the ideal, the goal, seems so far away, the world seems so crazy, and yet there are certain people, and Mairead Maguire, my guest, is one of them. Certain people who will never give up that quest. Suppose you and I here, we're naturally we'll talk about Northern Ireland, but not that alone, you've been to Burma where a fellow Nobel Laureate, a woman, is in prison and you've been in all parts of the world where troubles are, because that's where you are. And I was thinking, here's a song. You know that song. Let's listen to it. This song. And a lot of young people today, others find it old-fashioned, old-hat, quixotic, too much of an ideal. Let's hear this song and see what you think of it.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, I think that like all dreams, they can come true. But we have got to work very very hard to make peace. I mean, it does really demand of each of us dedication, hard work and courage and, but there are many many millions of people in the world who do share that dream of peace and things are changing.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking it's been seventeen years since we met, eighteen since you won the -- Well, about 17 years, 18 since you and Betty Williams won the Nobel Prize for organizing the Community for Peace People. So we gotta ask questions, some will say, who is this Mairead Maguire, who is she, why does she do this? Suppose we start in the beginning. How did you get this way? Who you are and how you got this way. Let's start at the beginning.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, some people will remember that in 1976 the Community of the Peace People started and they will have seen on their screens and hundreds and hundreds of people in Northern Ireland and in the south of Ireland as well, walking for peace. And this was brought about by the fact that my sister Anne took her four children out for a walk on the 10th of august, '76, and three of her little children were killed between a clash between the IRA and the British Army and the death of these children, plus the death of so many people before, really moved many thousands of people in Northern Ireland to come out to say, you know, let's stop the violence, we've got to solve this problem another way. So that's how the Peace People started.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, it was very personal, it was the death of my, my sister's children. But I like many other people in Northern Ireland since the most recent of our troubles started in 1969, were looking for ways in which we could try to stop the violence. And with others working in community. But when the children died, it sort of highlighted the whole thing and almost put it on to the world stage then, so we were able then to try to get our message out on a wider level.
Studs Terkel Let's stay with Northern Ireland for a moment and then about your travels around the world to various other places. It's been 18 years since you and Betty Williams won that Nobel Prize. You had a considerable, it seems, a considerable following then. How is the movement there now, all these years later?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, the movement has gone on and it has been at a much lower level, but we have worked in areas of community development. Youth work, prison work and justice work, and it's been a hard slog but I think that we have got great encouragement from the latest political developments that have happened like on the 15th of December, the British and Irish government produced 'The Downing Street Declaration' and we were much encouraged by the references in the declaration to something we've been saying for 17 years, and that is that the Northern Irish people, they have a right to self-determination and indeed that there -- This constitutes the whole basis of being able to create constitutional stability in Northern Ireland. And that's a very, very exciting political development which we can build on in the future peace process.
Studs Terkel Isn't one of the -- Now, when you say self-determination, you mean of Ireland generally, of 26 counties or of 6? That's the big question, isn't it? Self-determination of the Ulster rights, the [Protestant?] says, us, we're a majority. Whereas, we know a lot of the Catholic people have had a very hard time: job discrimination, bigotry. We hear a great deal -- I have to ask you this: Is there a double standard in the way the world knows about it. We knew about the IRA and the violence along with it. Nonetheless, to have that goal. We hardly hear about the Ulster constabulary and their violence. We hardly hear about that.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, in Northern Ireland, our violence, it comes from many many quarters. We have paramilitary violence on both sides of the divide and the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries. And we have state violence. And one of the most important campaigns of the Peace People has carried on for 17 years is to say that we are -- Northern Ireland has a human rights problem. Many of our basic civil liberties have been removed by the British government in their futile attempt to try to stop paramilitary violence. So we campaign very much here as well in America for the repeal of the Emergency Prevention Act and the Prevention of Terrorists Act. These laws were brought in by Willie White -- William Whitelaw 20 years ago, and when he passed them through the House of Commons, he made the statement that "This legislation is draconian and must not stay on the statute books for one minute longer than necessary." I mean, we still have this legislation so we really must try to return to the highest standards of law.
Studs Terkel I know this is, I suppose, a controversial question, [unintelligible] is it. The presence of the British Army itself is, in a sense, catapult, the very nature of an army, an occupying army, by the very nature, we knows this happens in other parts of the world, Middle East, elsewhere of course. So doesn't that -- Conor Cruise O'Brien, you know, who highly respect, says that there will be a bloodbath if the army withdrew. Do you feel that?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire I believe that the British Army were invited into Northern Ireland at 1969 when the two communities, it was great tension and violence between communities and in some areas were Catholics who actually burned out of their homes by Protestants. People were very very afraid that we were going to slide into civil war into a Bosnian situation, which we could have. And the Army was brought in there to literally go in between the two communities. Now, I -- Armies are not trained as community development officers. Armies are trained to kill. And today we still have the British Army in the streets of Belfast. But we also have the very deep fear between those two communities. Our work is to try to bring together those two communities to try to build a Northern Irish identity, a political Northern Irish identity, as two people who can solve their problem together and to create the atmosphere where the army can return home. The term "occupying army" is very misleading because the IRA have also used the language of "This is a colonial imperial problem. Get the British out of Northern Ireland." The fact is the British have said very clearly in the latest documents "We have no strategic interest or economic interest in Northern Ireland." Britain doesn't want to be involved in Northern Ireland's problems if it's something it is stuck with. The real people to solve the problem in Northern Ireland is the Northern Irish people and to create a Northern Irish identity. We are different from people in the southern part of Ireland. 70 years into partition, our identity has changed, and anyone looking at the whole question of Ireland today is beginning to recognize that the two identities, Northern Ireland and southern Ireland, have evolved 70 years later, and that we really need to have distinct jurisdictions between those two parts of Ireland.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire I don't want, I don't want to see a united Ireland. I believe that 70 years into partition that things are different. I think that we have evolved differently. I do believe that changing identities is very important in Ireland, and anyone who follows the Irish question will be very interested in a book by a young journalist Fionnuala O'Connor called "Catholics in Search of the State," and that book shows very very clearly the -- There is amongst nationalists an identity crisis. There is amongst unionists another identity crisis arising out of theses changing identities is coming of a very, very strong sense of the Northern Irish people and we can create our political institutions based on the fact that we are a Northern Irish people.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire I am, yes. I think it's very -- We're at a point of great opportunity and great danger in Ireland today and the IRA and our -- Are [nigh?] challenged by The Downing Street Declaration because in that declaration the heart of it is --
Mairead Corrigan Maguire This is the declaration by the British and Irish governments which was [unintelligible] on the 15th of December. And that is a very historic document. It allows us to continue in the process of peace. It doesn't solve the problem but it does set down principles which are agreed to by the majority of British and Irish people. One of the most important principles in that document is the recognition that the Northern Irish people have a right to determination and that will create political stability. The agreement and the acceptance of the principle of consent in the north of Ireland with a greater number of the people of Northern Ireland who do not want to see a united Ireland. And I think this is the reality of where they are today. I mean, it is an interesting fact that if you look at some of [to the south?] of Ireland, 90 percent of the people in southern Ireland have never spent the night in Northern Ireland. 70 percent of the people of southern Ireland have never been over the border. One hour up the road on a train. There is something like 60 million ethnic Irish now living in England. So there are very very strong family ties between the south of Ireland and England. There are very strong ties between the southern government and the British government. The south of Ireland has really evolved as very much as a sophisticated pluralist European republic. It has evolved in 70 years in its own identity. So I do, we do believe that it's time that the Northern Irish people be allowed to evolve their identity.
Studs Terkel One of the horrendous features of Northern Ireland, independent of the other counties or elsewhere, is the treatment of, the huge -- A minority, but huge -- Of Catholic people. We know they have been -- Have had a horrible time of it, as far as discrimination, for jobs and housing and everything else, we know that.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, when one looks to what the problem in Ireland is, and tries to get to the root of it, the recognition comes very quickly that we are dealing with a situation here that is one of, if not the most, deeply complex problem in the entire world because the roots of our conflict go back in the social, economic, cultural, hysterical, historical --
Mairead Corrigan Maguire interesting. It's an interesting word. It's hysterical, too. It's a slip, beyond a play. But historical roots, we have got such a deeply complicated situation. But one of the problems is the fact that Ireland for 50 years, in the north of Ireland, after the partition, for 50 years had a majority unionist government, in which the minority had no political voice and there was discrimination, etc., and it was only a matter of time before violence broke to the surface under such an unjust system. But what we have learned from that is that majoritarianism in a divided society doesn't work. And we really need to create democratic institutions.
Studs Terkel There was an anecdote that would interest you very much. It was told by Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, with whom you may or may not agree on some points. And that part of it while visiting told us incident. She was in the march, I think it was that "Bloody Sunday" march at Derry, she was in that march, and a woman she visited, a poor Protestant woman, Bernadette is Catholic, a poor Protestant woman, talk about getting together, and the woman says, "I look at you and at that television, I want to throw a boulder at it. I want to hit you with a rock so big," she says, but as this woman is bawling out Bernadette, she's taking out her best wine that she's saving for Easter, and she's giving it to Bernadette with all the biscuits she can spare, unconsciously as she's bawling her out, "Why are you doing this? You're calling me all the names, terrible names. At the same time you're giving your hospitality so warmly." "Oh, did I do that?" And Bernadette said, that real woman is inside, that these poor, the ordinary working people in -- Need to get together deep deep down. Isn't that an interesting anecdote?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Yes, it's very interesting. And it reflects the fact that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland are very warm, hospitable, generous and kind. But it also reflects the fact that in Northern Ireland we have a deeply, deeply sectarian prejudiced society because we have been divided going through the centuries we've been divided by politicians, we've been divided by churches. We live in separate communities. You can grow up in one area of Belfast all your life and until you get into your middle teens you're not going to meet someone from the other traditions. And you define yourself as being, if you're Irish, you're Catholic, you're saying "I'm not British, and I'm not unionist." And this creates a very deep fear and a very deep division. And I think what we really need to do in Northern Ireland is to try to move outside these tribal identifications, try to see each other as human beings and try to recognize our common humanity. And the right to life for each person and the right to uphold the political viewpoints is first and paramount, above all, these flags that we literally can kill over.
Studs Terkel Yeah, you're talking about nationalism, aren't you? So, we'll to the rest of the -- Other parts of the world that you're visiting on that point. Before that, so you spoke of the possible, there's talk of settlement, in a way. Gerry Adams was recently, he's sort of the Sinn Fein spokesman, in a sense, IRA provisional, I suppose, he seems to be -- Have mellowed a great deal in his approach and thoughts. That plays a role here, does it not, too? Does he reflect a growing feeling among Catholics in Ireland, in Northern Ireland?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Gerry Adams is leader of the Sinn Fein party which represents 10 percent of the vote in the north of Ireland and represents 2 percent of the vote in the south of Ireland. Gerry Adams at the present moment we believe is genuinely trying to take the guns out of Irish politics together with John Hume which is a tremendous courageous act for John Hume the leader of the SDLP.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire The social democratic -- The nationalist voice in Northern Ireland and they they got together and they -- Adams is trying to move the republican movement onto into the political process and take the gun out of Irish politics.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, he has a very important role to play there, and it was good for Adams to come to the States and to be able to articulate his perspective. But it must also be very remembered that they represent only 10 percent of the vote the voice of Northern Ireland. And it was sad that the Unionists politicians turned down the opportunity to come out at the same time as Adams because it would be far more important that the American people hear the a wider perspective of voices out of Northern Ireland.
Studs Terkel Funny, we're dwelling on Northern Ireland for the moment because in a sense it's the country you're from and with which you are best acquainted and how the peace movement of you and Betty Williams actually began. But it's almost a metaphor, is it not, what's happening in Belfast in Northern Ireland, it's almost a metaphor for much of the world today, isn't it?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire It very much is, I mean, Northern Ireland really, though it is so deeply complex, it is a [national?] problem and our approach as the Peace People is that we want to create a non-violent society. We want to really be able to create a society where ethnic conflict is solved by people themselves coming together to really build proper politics and if we can do that in Northern Ireland, we'll give light to other places. But it's very important that one thing be made very clear. To those who are keeping Northern Ireland locked into colonial imperial violence are the extremes of the IRA on one side, the Irish freedom fighters, the loyalist, media, etc. on the other side.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire
Mairead Corrigan Maguire perhaps make it clear since it's a little-known here, the irony, the -- Ulster Defense -- Ulster Defense League Constabulary. Association. No, no, it's nothing to do with it, it's a paramilitary loyalist force, it's nothing to with the constabulary, but they would be Ulster freedom fighters. Now, these two extremes --
Mairead Corrigan Maguire They do, indeed. Now these two extremes, who are prepared to kill those who would define freedom and the means of obtaining it in a different way, cannot be allowed to hold the Northern Irish people in to ransom. We must get on with creating our society.
Studs Terkel That's why I think that incident, that anecdote of Bernadette, is so interesting. That woman represented -- That woman who was verbally abusing her, was physically giving her hospitality. So it's a question of these two ordinary people's needs being the same is in a sense what your peace organization is all about.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, there is a great deal of poverty in the Northern Ireland and some of these areas where young people come out of, both on the republican and the loyalist side. There is a very high unemployment, in one area there is 70 percent unemployment. These young people often have no stake in society, no jobs, no hope and sometimes taking the gun gives them a sense that they have power.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, whenever young people have no stake in their society, no hope and feel frustrated, often violence comes to the fore. So we really have to deal with [harsh?] social justice.
Studs Terkel Aren't we're talking about people up against the wall in despair, desperation, take to that gun, whether it be young Palestinians, young Black guys on street corners without jobs, young Catholic kids in Falls Road, wherever the [unintelligible] area is in Belfast. Isn't there a connecting link between all this?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Yes, I do believe there is. I think where you have social injustice. I remember my going in when internment was brought in in Northern Ireland that most unjust action [unintelligible] by the British government upon the nationalist community. And I spoke to one young man called Paul and I said to Paul, "I hope," he was only 17, "I hope Paul, when you come out [nigh?] you'll be able to get back and your life will be all right." And he said, "Oh, no, I'm going to join the IRA." And I said, "But, why, Paul?" And he said, "Well, I come from an area where there's 70 percent unemployment. My dad's never had a job, I won't have one. Or, we have no political voice. Where there's injustice, I believe the only way to change that is taking the gun." And Paul came out of prison a short time after that. And Paul, in driving his girlfriend into the [Tyne?], was a bomb in the back of the car that [unintelligible] blown to bits. And Paul challenged me in my own life, because if we who believe in non-violence are not totally committed and passionately committed to working for justice and social rights, we cannot really challenge young men and woman who pick the gun.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking of the Pauls in different parts of the world all over. There's Paul almost everywhere. In the Middle East, certainly. In certain parts of this country. In certain other areas, Ireland, of course. So that's a [unintelligible] for the metaphor. So we come to you, then, to Mairead Maguire and the work you've done since then. Not simply in Northern Ireland, but travel.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire
Mairead Corrigan Maguire You've been recently, you've been -- You visited Bosnia, too? No, I haven't been to Bosnia, no. But you've been to try to see a fellow Nobel Laureate. What's her name? Aung San Syu Kee, one -- A Burmese leader.
Studs Terkel Well, what what what did they arrest her for? What has she been -- She won the Nobel Peace Prize, and that's what -- For work similar to what you and Betty Williams and your group were doing.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire She see in Burma helped set up the party, the National League for Democracy. And was its most charismatic leader. And when the military dictatorship in Burma agreed to hold elections, Aung San Suu Kee went all 'round Burma and there was such a tremendous response to her that it frightened the dictatorship, so they put her under house arrest. But her party actually went on to win 90 percent of the votes. And instead of the military [raising?] and transferring power to the people as it had promised, it held on to power and it has incarcerated thousands of political prisoners. In 1988 it opened up fire on pro-democracy students and killed over ten thousand students. So that cruel, cruel dictatorship still holds power in Burma today.
Studs Terkel Funny, we hear little about that on the press or on TV. Burma. And here, it's funny, you mention that now, I think of Aristide winning the majority of the vote overwhelmingly and military. And us, to a great extent our country, [we might say this?] winking, to a great extent, taking over. There again we have the military and we have the will of the people denied in so many quarters. What is the situation now? In Burma? You couldn't get to see her. They wouldn't let you see her. You and I take it, several other people.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, a delegation of seven Nobel Laureates tried last February to go into Burma but they refused us permission. So the next best thing was that we went to the Thai-Burma border to visit the refugee camps. And that was really a most painful experience to go to those camps to listen to the experiences of the refugees. The camp we visited had over 5000 people in it. And 60 percent of them were young children under the age of 12 with no fathers and no mothers. And we spoke to some of the women refugees. And one of the women was telling me, I'll call her "Non-Tee" because she wouldn't give her name, she was so frightened. But she was saying how the Burmese soldiers had come into her village and they were looking for porters and all the men in the village had either died or fled. So they took 50 of the women from the village and they made them carry all their equipment through the mountains, every day giving them just sips of water.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Young kids, very young. And she told us how all the women in that group were raped both day and night by these young soldiers and they fled into the refugee camps in Thailand. So the situation is absolutely dreadful.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire And the situation, too, Burma was one of the, it was one of the richest countries, the people had everything until the military dictatorship took over and started using up all the country's resources. Now the military in Burma today is selling off the [antique?] forests in order to buy armaments. And one of the great tragedies, the people who are listening will say, "There's nothing we can do about Burma." But you know, here in Chicago is Amoco, an oil company. And after the military dictatorship had massacred over 10,000 students in Burma in 1988, Amoco moved in to invest in 1989 in the military dictatorship. So they are partners with the Burmese junta. Now, the military junta were on the point of collapse, they had no money, and they were [capitalized? crystalized?] by the investment of foreign companies, companies like Texaco and Amoco based here in America. So, you know, people here in Chicago can do something. Refuse to buy Amoco petrol for your car and make the statement that you will not fuel the oppression in Burma.
Studs Terkel You're really hitting the car, a great many of the problems, aren't you? The question of industry, the corporations and investments in countries where a great deal of talk is made of human rights, is it not? The Cold War appears to be over, you know, the evil empire, quote unquote, is gone. And for years we backed all sorts of countries, mostly vile, because there were anti-Red, anti-Soviet. That was all that was needed, see. Now that seems to be out. So the war, the Cold War, so it would seem. What other rationalization is being offered for that? A big buck or two, perhaps.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, it's money and it's oil. And also, I mean, people will say it's jobs, but I mean when Amoco moved into Burma, the military cleared whole villages to build roads so Amoco could have their trucks. There is forced labor used to build these roads. The human rights organizations have photographs of men manacled to the roads while they're digging them up. And the price of that investment is really the blood of ordinary Burmese men and women because whenever the foreign companies invest in these -- In Burma, 40 percent of foreign aid goes toward buying guns. You know, when people realize that, I know that they would want their governments to put on economic sanctions. And President Clinton has the power to put on economic sanctions against Burma. He can do it.
Studs Terkel So that's one of the things you are doing, you and the group, The Community for Peace People, it's spreading the news that is a fact that is there that is not known to many people and the connection of big, big corporations with all this.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, there's a very, very active movement here in America. You have the Coalition for Corporate Withdrawal from Burma, and this coalition is made up of very, very reputable foundations here. The [Simon Villaness?] and Franklin Research, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, the Workers' Assets, these have come together as corporations to say that, you know, we want shareholders to withdraw their shares because Amoco, Texaco, Unocal and Pepsi are all major investments in Burma.
Studs Terkel Funny, as you're targeting various groups, as you're talking, all sorts of thoughts and memories come to mind. You know, our country, the United States, helped overthrow -- Not helped, played a big role in -- Overthrowing a legally elected head of Iran, Dr. Mosaddegh, and the reason, and this is pretty much accepted, and one of the [CIO? CIA?] operatives, [Quentin Roosevelt?], wrote a book about this. The reason is that the oil companies were furious with Mosaddegh because he was nationalizing oil. So oil becomes, in a sense, as a result of Mosaddegh's overthrow, the Shah came in, our Shah, and students and labor people were arrested, the Shah was overthrown, and Khomeini came in. So in a sense, we are responsible to a great extent, to the horrendousness that ensued. So this goes on and on, does it not?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire It does go on and on and I think it comes back to the whole thing that each of us are responsible and individuals have got to take responsibility for their action. But we've also got to take responsibility for the actions of our governments in our name. And when we do, when our governments do things that we don't agree with, to stand up and say very clearly we do not agree with this. Whenever we see the whole Gulf War episode, I mean, to me, the Gulf War was a sin. And I think the American people will have to say they're sorry for that, because the tragedy of the Gulf War was that today so many hundreds of thousands of children and families are suffering. Now what Saddam done was terrible. But we should have looked for alternative ways of trying to solve that problem, because we're only building up problems for ourselves when we use militarism to try to solve problems. The human family is really challenged to try to use the ways of non-violence, with dialogue, negotiation, cooperation, in order to solve these huge problems that we're faced with.
Studs Terkel Again, that idea, taking the guns out of politics. Gun also means, of course, missiles, called ironically enough, "patriots." Gun means napalm, gun means -- By the word terrorist means a great deal certainly in reference, say, to Palestinian groups or to the IRA groups. And then there is individual terrorism, as you tragically know, the death of your two nephews and a niece. But there's another kind of terrorism. More impersonal, more horrendous, from the sky, from elsewhere, from distance, of the napalm dropped by a pilot, say. He does not see the victims of it at all. They're not there, he doesn't see, he just drops them, you see, at the behest of his government. That a kind of terrorism, too.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Yes. There are other ways of terrorism and other ways of controlling people. And I think that I was struck in the early days of the Peace People when I met a young man in Derry, and he was in the IRA, and he said that he was fighting a just war, and the church blessed just war, and that this was a just cause and he went on to point out, "I might kill one or two people with my gun. But what about countries like America with all its nuclear weapons who if they drop them will kill many, many more." And you know, I think that is a challenge because while we in Ireland struggle to take the guns and to demilitarize our country it must surely be a challenge to the American people to begin also to demilitarize America. It is such a tragic comment that in this country one in six are involved in the military and industrial complex, that your finest minds and a great deal of money is going to build weapons of war and destruction which can never be used.
Studs Terkel You know one of the, it's almost a postulate accepted, that you don't touch the military expenditures. Now this was never challenged by hardly anyone outside of dissidents, such as yourself, troublemakers such as yourself, is that, wait a minute. As you know, we're security against the evil empire, the evil empire is gone. Now we've made some cuts in the military, but they're miniscule, but the recent address of President Clinton said, "Under no circumstances will we diminish the military." We must be number one. So there you have it, again and again and again. There is a -- Mairead, you might like this -- there's a retired Admiral, a remarkable man named Admiral Gene La Rocque, who cannot be described as quote unquote, a "peacenik." He's been in all the wars, member of the War College, Gene La Rocque says, "We, the United States, engaged in more military adventures elsewhere than any country in the history of the human race." "More elsewhere." And so there we are again, up to the, of course, you're asking for the American people to assume a certain responsibility. That depends upon knowledge, too and that is one of the things that you and your group is offering, knowledge of what is happening and who is what and plays what role.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well. I think that the the what is happening in the world today is there is a great mass movement of people who are moving towards disarmament, who want to deal with environmental crises, who want to deal with the hungry, who want to deal with all these great social problems that we're faced with and who don't want their governments to be spending their money on militarism and weapons that we can never use. But this conc-- this voice of the people is not being reflected in political leadership. And unfortunately there have been polls that show that the vast majority of American people don't want nuclear weapons and don't want this build-up of weapons. But it gets up then to the big contractors to the arms manufactories, to the money people who make their livelihood either selling these arms. So that's where the link has got to be broken by by constantly continuing to say we want the money to be put into dealing with the most immediate problems we are faced with.
Studs Terkel Mairead Maguire. Nobel Laureate '76. You and Betty Williams and the others. The question to ask -- How does it look to you as far as -- We know that people really feel what they want. What do you sense about -- I hate to use the word "peace movement," but I can't think of any other phrase at the moment. Do you feel this, has it been dormant generally since, say, the end of the Vietnam War, for example. Do you find a tiredness, a fatigue, a burn-out on the part of a great many people, or do you find something happening? Maybe in the wind.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire I think that great things are happening. I do believe in the countries that I go to that there is a great development in the movement amongst nonviolent groups, human rights groups, I mean now we have hundreds of thousands of human rights groups. Twenty years ago we didn't have any. Environmental groups, all these church groups, ecumenical movement. This is a people movement going on in our world today. We've got to keep networking. We've got to find ways of getting to political leadership. And I hope that eventually real political leadership will evolve in our world that will help us go on to a new path.
Studs Terkel See, what you're talking about, aren't you, are grassroots movements. See, you named them, a good number of groups that were not in existence before, but there has been no coalescence of them. That, perhaps, is what may be missing. A coalition of sorts.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire And a networking and a coalition of [goods? goals?] is very important. It was very interesting when we were in Thailand, Bishop Tutu said about the proposal from the Nobel Laureates, we must put on economic and trade sanctions, and Bishop Tutu said that the only thing that brought down apartheid in South Africa was economic trade sanctions and that they were not implemented by governments first, it was the world's people movement that implemented the sanctions and that worked. And he said we must make Burma our South Africa. Now that starts in small places, it starts in the the life of the Chicago Council here, bringing forward a resolution for sanctions to be put on against Burma as they did in the case of South Africa. And that's what can be done locally and that can mushroom and grow and that's what brings change.
Studs Terkel Now we're coming down to the key near the end of our conversation, that comes down to the pavement, to grassroots, to the individual, not to those up above determining, not trickle-down understanding, or trickle-down power, but something always from below, it seems to be that's been eternally -- the need has been, and that's what you in a sense are expressing.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Each individual has power to make a difference. All we've got to do is be -- Think of the real suffering in our world today and the people of Burma. And as you go in to Amoco or Texaco to fill up your tank, think about buying a gun that will kill some young Burmese child, and then don't buy your petrol.
Studs Terkel I was thinking, any questions, anything you want to say before we hear that song at the very beginning, that old-fashioned old-hat song, "Strangest Dream," any thoughts, Mairead Maguire? Any that we haven't --Many that we haven't touched.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Well, sometimes people think that, you know, my goodness, we're in a terrible way. There's such a lot of problems in our world. But you know, people are great. There's such a lot of goodness in people and such a lot of good exciting things happening in the world today. And if we can unite the people of America, Burma, China, Iraq, Iran, if we can build those links again and begin to see each other as fellow human beings, then we really can solve our problems together.