Q: When you were growing up, who were your heroes, who were your role models?
I'm not sure that I have any great heroes as such. My father was very
influential in my life and I don't think I had any heroes as such when I was
Q: Do you think it is harder for kids who are growing up today? Do they face
more challenges than, say, growing up forty years ago, thirty years ago?
Growing up in any generation is hard to do. There are a lot of problems and
life is very tough but it gets easier as one gets older. I don't know I think
that in some countries young people get it particularly hard - and in other
countries, in some ways because young people have more material things - in a
sense, life is a bit easier.
But really, every human being has to struggle with their inner emotions in
finding a sense of identity and a sense of peace themselves - that's an inner
struggle that's equal to us all and we all have to come through that.
Q: How did you have the courage to get started? It's such an amazing thing
what you did and when things were so scary and everything was so violent and you
started this effort - which is one of the amazing grassroots successes of Recent
history - how did you have the courage to actually go and do something about it?
Everyday there are people in our world that do absolutely amazing things.
People of all ages are very capable of doing tremendous, courageous things in
spite of their fear. In a sense, what the Peace People did was no more different
than what we see happening everyday. There are many heroes around the place, the
only difference is that somehow we were put in the media. Our story was run
around the world and we moved from that to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. I
really think people are great and do wonderful things but we don't give each
other the kind of credit that perhaps we deserve.
Q: Were you ever afraid?
Yes, I was very much afraid. I mean when I received the Nobel Peace Prize I
actually cried because I was frightened, I didn't know how to cope with it.
When we are frightened - not in physical danger, but more how I was going to be
able to cope with everyday situations and answer some of the problems that were
being asked and I knew that I knew nothing - I think when one recognizes that,
then you can begin to learn and there are other people around who will help you
to learn. You begin to overcome your fear and thank goodness, I did overcome my
Q: You say that you knew nothing, but what were you feeling at the time that
caused that to start this grassroots movement? I know the story of what happened,
but when you started the grassroots movement to stop the violence in Northern
Ireland, what were you thinking at the time, what were you feeling?
The trouble had gone on for many years in Northern Ireland and there were
people being killed with bombs and bullets. But when my sister's three children
were killed and she herself was dangerously ill, I just I knew that taking human
life and violating another human person is wrong and I felt more angry than of
the previous deaths.
I decided I had to do something. I went down to the television studios and said
I wanted to go on television and I wanted to say stop all the violence, the
paramilitary violence, the street violence, people should not live in conditions
where people are hurt and dying.
We (Peace People) didn't start the women's movement - it was a very much a mixed
movement and it was important that men and women together marched in the
thousands and came out saying, "We want to solve our problems nonviolently
because violence doesn't work and taking human life is wrong."
Q: You have continued on with your work - I have several questions about that
- have you ever lost hope in so many years since 1977, when you won the Nobel
Peace Prize, have you ever felt like giving up?
I've never lost hope, because I know Northern Ireland and I know the people
of Northern Ireland. I know that there's a tremendous spirit, a tremendous
community there. I know that we have our problems, but I believe passionately
that we can solve those problems.
We have a young generation coming up who will make a difference. I believe very
much that they will make that difference, so I've never lost hope. There have
been times when I've been very tired it seems to be going on a long time, when
another invitation comes through the door to go to perhaps another country, I
say, Oh! No! but I don't want to go, send somebody else. But then I pick myself
and keep going because in so many situations in our world today, there's so much
suffering and we each need to do what we can to help one another no matter how
tiny it is, if we do something for peace-each of us-we can all make the
Q: What about negative resistance from different religious groups, or people
in general, how did you deal with it? There must have people who were very, very
negative towards what you were doing and opposed very strongly – how did you
deal with that?
I think the important thing is to be positive and to think positive and to
act positive and to keep going, to persevere. What we are saying is that we want
to change Northern Ireland and we want to create a peaceful society, we want to
create a real democracy, we want to create another political example to the
world and we want to create a disarmed world.
Those are pretty powerful statements - we reject the way the world is at the
moment and we don't accept nuclear weapons, we don't accept the fact that we
train men and women to kill each other-we think this is immoral-and we want to
disarm human hearts and human beings, one by one, country by country and that's
a big task.
It's going to take all of my lifetime and several more generations of young
people. It's going to take your generation too, to build a world-a nonviolent
world-where people refuse to kill each other and human life is the ultimate
value in our society and that's a vision.
I do believe that it is something that is in the hearts of men and women and
we've just got to get it out there into our politics in the world and change it
Q: Specifically, when you were marching against violence in Northern Ireland
there must have certain factions - whether they were religious factions,
governmental factions or whatever - it must have been said, "Excuse me, we
object to what you are doing, we take umbrage to what you are doing." Can
you to explain to young people who are out there that they're going to meet
resistance and how to deal with it and can you describe the negotiation process
- the process of conflict resolution - can you extrapolate?
When we marched, we decided that our rally program would take place every
Saturday for several months. We were told there were certain roads we couldn't
walk because the paramilitary operated on those roads and if we came up those
roads we would be shot.
We said we are not afraid and that we are going to walk those roads and we
encouraged people by the thousands to come. We walked up the Protestant areas,
we walked the Catholic areas, we walked down many roads-we actually walked into
areas where we knew they were bombing and the police said we'll offer you
protection and we said don't want protection-we want to live unarmed lives.
We were not afraid-maybe we were afraid-but we're going to do it anyway. And we
went - I think that was a challenge to the people, to walk into the different
situations and to face their own fear and to be courageous. That was good for
thousands of people and it also said to those who were using guns to rethink
their strategy, because we no longer were going to accept the use of guns in our
It was very interesting within the first year of the Peace People, there was a
70% decrease in the rate of violence. There was a turnover from the use of
violence, so the paramilitaries were threatened by us-some extremists would keep
the communities divided - and encouraged sectarianism when we said we were going
to different communities to speak to Protestant communities and sometimes in
Catholic areas we were told not to come, but we went anyway because of the need
to bring people together as men and women to break down the sectarian divide and
to begin to rebuild Northern Ireland from the bottom up.
They needed us to actually go in and challenge some of the myths which existed
and said that we couldn't go into these communities but we did.
Q: In the work that you're doing today, can you describe the focus of the
next few years in your organization?
In our work, particularly mine in Northern Ireland, we are a nonviolent
movement. With young people we do nonviolent training and education and this
entails bringing together young people from both traditions in Northern Ireland
- some who never get the opportunity to come together to talk about the problems
they are faced with.
Then we have camps for these young people - political camps - where they go to
learn. Sometimes it's in Northern Ireland, sometimes it's in other countries,
where we look up different political models of democracy and we use the Åland
Islands off the coast of Finland, which is one of the most democratized
countries in the world. It's completely disarmed. We have camps of young
Northern Irish people going to the island and young islanders coming over to
Northern Ireland to learn from us as well.
We are learning from each other. We have things to teach and we have things to
learn - particularly with young people - these camps are organized in London by
young people themselves, in order to create real change.
Q: Did you attend the conference that Elie Weisel had in Vienna in May with
the young leaders from around the world - from Northern Ireland, from Bosnia -
you were part of that, right?
Q: Could you talk a little about that and what your strongest impressions are
coming out of that conference? What do you feel was really important that came
out of that conference?
I think the ability of young people from so many different cultures and
backgrounds – and indeed, so many problems they face because they were very
disturbed areas of the world that they were coming out of.
After a short time, they were able to really bond together and become friends
and when they were parting there were so many tears and weeping - they did that
through their songs, through their music - they were also able to tackle very,
very difficult issues.
But I think one of the most important things that they were saying was they want
things to be different. They don't want to grow up in a militarized world, they
don't want their problems to be solved through violence, they want to do it
nonviolently and peacefully.
I think a great hope that comes out of that is that we had people talking about
Costa Rica where they have no army, we had people talking about Tahiti, where
they are thinking of having an alternative to the army and in Northern Ireland
– indeed - we want to demilitarize society.
It has started to actually establish no-gun zones, because not only do we want
no military, we want unarmed police, we want men and women to be let to live
respect each other without any guns in our society.
The new thinking that was coming out of there and the enthusiasm that young
people had for making things different-it gives one tremendous hope.
Q: Do you see any difference between the young people of the 1960's and the
young people today - is there any major differences between them?
In the 1960's there was a great deal of idealism around and we all ran to the
Beatles and flower power and the sense of excitement. We really did believe we
were going to change the world and I think today young people have that same
kind of enthusiasm and want to make a difference and want to change the world.
They may be saying it a bit louder than we ever said it and the rock music that
my girls are playing at home - this loud rock music - I'm afraid I have to find
something softer (laughs) but there's still a lot of idealism about changing the
world. I think young people can do it and the energy is there and I have great
hope for the future.
I don't think all of us who were there in the 60's went away. I think we went on
working for a nonviolent society for stability and democracy to build justice in
the world. We are passionately concerned that there is such injustice and
there's famine and war in the world. But I know that we are still in there
It's going to take a long time to change the thinking, so we're not going to go
anywhere - we're going to work. We will work with young people, we don't want a
big gap between young people and us older people. I recognize there's got to be
space because they are the young after all. I think that we can learn of each
other and share of each other and help each other because, after all, there are
lots of problems. Those of us who have been around a bit longer maybe can bring
a little bit of encouragement to the young people who too will be around in 30
years time working on it as well-it's going to take a long time.
Q: I have a question that comes from a young man who lives in the ghettos
around Philadelphia. He talks about in his inner city world, there being so much
violence and so many gangs.
Gangs are everywhere-all over the world - there's a gang problem in Central
America, there's a gang problem in South Africa. These are things that we've
learned as we traveled and done these interviews.
The young man from Philadelphia says how can I go forward and live a life of
nonviolence, walk the path of nonviolence without getting killed? I'm so afraid,
with everybody else being a member of a gang, I feel I have to join to gang for
my own self protection. What should he do?
It's been hard. The message of nonviolence in the world and particularly in
societies like America - which is such a gun culture, it's written into the
constitution the fact that you have the right to bear arms-and what I think that
more and more we need people to say that we have no right to take another human
We have really got to create a culture in our world today where we recognize
that every human life is sacred and precious and we have no right to take
another human life – that the sanctity of life must be the link between the
spiritual and the political life, that it must be the ultimate value in
We as individuals have got to find our spiritual path. We have got to come into
our own truth - and as a young person, that was my struggle - what is life about?
And it took me a long time to come to realize that there aren't too many things
that are important, but what is important is that we respect each other, uphold
our humanity and to not lose our common humanity above the flags, the religions
and all of those other things!
Where men and women in the world have a common humanity is the important thing
and for that young man in his spiritual journey. I know how difficult it is
going to be for him to be nonviolent when he lives in a very violent atmosphere.
I'm sure that if he respects each person that he meets that he will therefore
have that respect returned-because we have got to really cut off this idea that
somehow violence solves problems.
We've got to operate on a one-to-one loving each other, respecting each other,
realizing that many people who join gangs are very hurt and need a sense of
identity in the gang. They need and are crying out for love and we need somehow
to serve them and to help each other and to give them a sense of dignity and to
encourage them to use alternative means to violence and alternatives to guns,
because guns don't work.
Q: What went down in the 1960's and what is happening here in the 90's are
two very different situations. The 60's were different times and those people
who tried to affect change are now their in office and they're running
corporations-and countries, for that matter-and they don't seem to be doing very
well in terms of social issues, they seem to have forgotten some of the things
they were preaching. Young people don't trust the motivation of their elders-why
should they?-so the question is, how do we win back the trust of the young
people of the world?
I think that we've got to give leadership a vote on the most important moral
issues of war and famine and we've got to show very clearly that we are
determined to have a more just and fairer world. We've got to implement policies
through the United Nations and through our governments that uphold human dignity
and the rights of all men and women to equality and the rights of people for
food, clothing and shelter. We really have to change policies which degrade the
human being and that's going to be a very difficult task, but it is possible.
We need to create the political role-you see we have the resources in the world
today - but the tragedy is that the resources and the finances are held by the
rich and power is held at the top. The masses of the people and the poor are not
only in the Third World, but around the world and now we have more and more poor.
The gap between the rich in all the countries and the really, really poor people
is getting wider and wider. We need close that gap and begin to have policies
which are fair and just and give equality to all men and women.
We can do that by making the United Nations more democratic by giving it the
funding to do the very, very more important humanitarian work-that it's doing in
so many countries in the world by working towards building a world community-and
by beginning work on the huge problems like the environment, poverty, war and
As the human family we are interconnected - we do need each other, we can't live
those isolated lives today - and we shouldn't have power blocks, there shouldn't
be any country that is superior to another. We all need each other and we need
to create world community politics based on respect of human life and human
dignity-believe passionately that young people today know what to do-I believe
they will provide the political role to really change the world, I have great
hope for them.
Q: Another question that came in: I know that I'm a very small person and I
know that I'm all alone and you've accomplished so much-how can I make a
difference, how can one person make a difference?
Don't be afraid! Give up your fear. When I started I was afraid, but fear
blocks us from doing things and believing in ourselves and believing in each
other. We're all born to love and be loved. We all need each other. Don't be
afraid to go out and be happy and show affection and show love and forgive and
ask forgiveness because we all make mistakes.
You know that Gandhi was afraid? He was afraid of snakes and growing up in India
must have been awful - being afraid of snakes. Someone said to him to keep
saying, "Rama, rama," - become aware of the presence of God. Know that
you are created in the image of God and that you are loved and capable of loving
and you lose all of your fear. You become able to love.
I would say to young people today, don't be afraid of anything. Lose your fear
and give it away - throw it away and start loving. Love everybody and don't let
flags and religions get in the way of looking somebody in the eye and seeing the
beauty of the human person. Every person you look at and the beauty of the world
around you and people are wonderful and when the chips are down, people can come
up and do pretty wonderful things. Yet we are capable of great evil.
This is for each of us. We are all capable of murder-if those things that we
love are threatened, but we are also capable of love and doing the greatest
things. We need nonviolence because we are capable of great evil and we have
nonviolence which makes us capable of great good.
Q: One problem with growing up today is that both parents are working there's
no one home for guidance. When the young person comes home from school, there's
no support of the family. How does that young person cope with the dilemmas if
they're not learning at home?
We as parents have tremendous responsibility. If you bring a child into the
world, you owe it a great deal - you most certainly owe it your love and your
time and I think that's very important. In the world today, women have a
tremendous opportunity and tremendous responsibility to help change the world by
really allowing the feminine side of their nature out and encouraging the
feminine side of the male nature by being more loving, more gentle and being
kinder and being able to show our emotions.
I think that when a man and woman bring a child into the world they need to
nurture that child - to teach it kindness and compassion - to teach it to be
kind to all it meets, to teach it to respect human life, to teach it to respect
the environment and beautiful creation. Parents have a responsibility to give
time to their children-and I don't mean this kind of term "quality
time" - I mean real time, real love, real affection. Then the child will
blossom and will grow.
For young people who maybe feel lost - that they're not getting that kind of
affection and time - then know that you are loved. God loves you. You are
special and that you are capable of loving, go out and you will find people to
love and once you go out and start serving people, it's amazing how much love
will come back.
So go out and serve - work for people who have less than yourself because
there's always someone who has less, much less than yourself - and love will
Whatever your talents are, use them. Find out what your gift is - everyone has a
gift – and go out and start with one or two friends, start in your local
community, go to your local handicap group, small art group, just start small.
Small is beautiful and you'll find it growing, but there are lots of groups who
need volunteers and help. The important thing is never to think that any of
these things are too small and not get into anything too big-perservere at it
and just use your talents – do what you can.
Q: Another asked about the future of the planet. There is great concern about
the environment and one girl asked how much longer do we have on this planet
because of the way that we've destroyed the environment? In your opinion, how
much longer do we have?
Well, that's why it's very important that we have and support organizations
like the United Nations and expand them and the European market and things like
that because we can't deal with any of these problems on just a one-country
basis. We need each other. We're interdependent and I think that there is a
growing awareness by young people that there's lots we can do to help the
environment and in any small way and encourage our governments to move
environmental issues as quickly as possible.
But I would say to young people, enjoy every day and do what you can to bring
about change - but don't go worrying about a kind of doomsday scenario. Life's
wonderful, it's great and don't get depressed about worrying about the world
news do what you can in a small way, but enjoy your life. I'm sure we've lots of
Q: What do you think of this PeaceJam project? Do you think that it could
really make a difference?
Everything makes a difference. Today, we are interconnected in our world and
ideas travel very, very fast and something like this will connect young people
throughout the world - and I hope they realize how deep is the desire to build a
better world, how deep is the desire to say no to nuclear weapons and weapons of
mass destruction, how deep is the desire to move money out of militarism and put
it into feeding the hungry and tackling problems like the environment.
Projects like this are tremendous in that they give people hope and courage and
we inspire each other-and yes, I think it's marvelous.
Q: Suicide has increased among teens. There's mass depression for teenagers -
you can read about it in the papers every day. What do you think is the cause
and effect of this situation and what is your analysis of this increased teenage
suicide rate and what can be done about it?
Well, I think it tragic that suicide is so prevalent among young people in
the world today. Most certainly in Northern Ireland too, we have high suicide
rate. Perhaps we put too much pressure on young people today. There's a great
deal of pressure put on them to be, to get exams, to be successful. We live in a
very materialistic world and people are judged often on how they go up the
ladder or what their material possessions are. I think that's tragic. We have
got to move away from this kind of materialistic attitude and recognize that
respect is the most important thing.
Every human person is valuable in their own selves and everyone has a gift and a
talent - whatever area this may be in. We must allow people to develop at their
own pace and not put pressure on each other.
I would say, particularly to parents, that material things don't bring happiness
to young people. Young people need - they need a sense of belonging. They need a
sense of that they're cared for. We're all young at heart. We all need a sense
of belonging, a sense that we are important and that we are cared for and that
it takes time for relationships. Let's try to keep those relationships together.
In Northern Ireland we still have strong family relationships. Let's work on
building family. Let's work on building community. Let's work on giving time to
each other and time to help each other. Materialism will destroy the human
family. We really need tobe able share and help each other more.
Q: We do need to share and help each other more-but this gets back to the
question that young people are not finding ease in sharing and loving at home
and consequently, they join a negative force such as a gang. So how does a young
person - who maybe has a better situation at home than another – how does that
young person go to his friends in gangs and say, "Hey look, there's a
different way," without being laughed at, ridiculed or shot. How does one
Well, I think that a young person has got to take the risk - and there's
nothing worth doing in life if there's not a risk to it. Every young person who
starts up and goes to his friends to say, "Hey, we're not going to do this
through this violence. We can do it through dialogue, through talking, we can
change things by working together" - there very well may be a risk. Martin
Luther King, a wonderful hero of mine, stood out and he paid a high price-he got
killed. Gandhi, another hero, stood out and he got killed.
Christ, for people from a Christian background - could you have anyone more
gentle, more kind, more nonviolent - who hung on the cross and said, "Love
everybody, love your enemies" - Beautiful nonviolent messages which the
churches have failed to teach.
There are lots of people of history who stood out and paid the price so yes,
there is a risk. You may well get shot, but so what? You're going to die anyway.
Why not die for what you believe in?
But the chances are you don't get shot, the chances are that somebody else will
say, "Hey, this makes a lot of sense, why not do it this way?" So take
the risk and go out and try to do it a different way. One or two people can make
Q: What specifically can young people do to force our government to
demilitarize or to force our government to move away from nuclear arms?
We have seen wonderful examples in Greenpeace. They have gone out and have
protested against the French nuclear testing and that gives us all tremendous
hope. There are people capable of doing wonderful things - exciting nonviolent
action – and where young people can think of making exciting nonviolent action,
that's tremendous. Go for it.
But there are other ways in which we can make a difference. Now we have young
people between the ages of l8 and 30 who want to see no guns in Northern Ireland.
We want not only the paramilitary guns, we want to operate toward a nonviolent
What they're doing is they're literally starting house-by-house,
center-by-center, hopefully building it up to street-by-street and they've
started a company called the No Gun Zone. So you start yourself by saying,
"Look, I'm not going to carry a gun," then you say, "My house is
going to be a no-gun zone. My community going to be a no-gun zone."
Naturally, the churches might actually say, "Well, hey, Jesus said don't
kill, so maybe we ought not to have guns in our churches." And so the whole
thing could grow, so you start on the small and individual community level.
You challenge the like of Greenpeace with innovative ideas and imagination, the
media can catch on to it at the top level - no armaments, no nuclear weapons, we
don't want to blow each other apart. We want a nonviolent world. Take the money
out of guns, feed the children. So there are many many different levels in which
we can work.
Everybody can do something and young people out there have more imaginative
ideas than I have. Any young people who can do what they're doing today - rock
concerts and so many things that they're doing and you know, use the music to
change the mind from the military mind to the nonviolent mind and it will change
very fast because people want it to change. We all want it to change and young
people can play a very important role in changing it very fast.
Q: We do have a question from a young woman who says that she considering
suicide. She's lost all hope. She's very depressed. She's thinking of taking her
own life. What specific words would you say to her?
The Peace People started because my young sister Anne took four of her
children for a walk and three of the children were killed in a clash between the
IRA and the army and another young man, an IRA man, only l9 - was shot through
the head, so four young people died that day.
My sister recovered slightly. She had two children. In January 1980 she took her
own life, took her own life very painfully. It took her a long time to die. She
took it because she - life is so hard for her that she never got over the death
of her children and she left a little note to her family saying forgive me I'm
sorry I can't go on.
It was very hard for her family to they missed her so much because they loved
her so much so, I would like that young woman to the pain she's going through, I
know it's very deep, but go out and talk to a good friend and explain your pain
to that friend. People do care. Find someone who will listen and then, go talk
to someone else who is suffering from loneliness.
I do believe that loneliness is the gravest disease in the world today. We all
put on our masks. We pretend we are all doing very well. We keep smiling and we
let on to each other that we don't have any problems. Life is very, very hard -
very painful. There's no one that doesn't get heavy crosses throughout life in
one way or another. But we have each other to turn to in the hard days. Then the
sun comes out again and it's like the seasons. We all come through our winters,
but the spring comes and summer comes and it's like that in your life. When
you're in your winter, go out and find a friend and you'll soon come into your
spring and your summer. Stick in there.
Q: We have one question that is kind of funny. If you could be invisible for
a day, what would you do?
I'd spend it with my family. I'd watch my husband and the kids and then I'd
tease them about what they did when I wasn't there. I don't know what I'd do -
that's a funny question. No, I'd spend it with my family. I'm very privileged. I
have a lovely family, a great husband and lovely children.
Q: What is the most important thing you'd like to tell young people today,
when you think about it: the bottom line. If you had one thing that you had to
tell them that you really wanted to get across, what would you tell them? What
would you really like to tell them straight from your heart?
I'd really like to say that you're very precious and that your life is very
important to me and that you're beautiful. You have so much to give and that I
believe passionately in you, that I will love you to always. Always remember
that human life is sacred and a gift. It's a gift to be celebrated and rejoiced
and shared. Yes, you're going to have problems, many, many problems and you're
going to be lonely and it's going to be tough.
But also you're going to have great times, there's going to be great fun and you
can change the world and above all in the world today, don't let flags or
religions or anything - social status or any of those things, don't let any of
those things get in the way between your recognition that every human person is
very, very special and believe passionately in yourself.
Believe together that the human family, we're interconnected. We need each other.
We've a lot of problems, but together we can solve these problems. Use
everything in your means to bring about a better world. With the age of
technology, now we can connect with each other.
When I was at the Thai-Burma border, I met young people of America who were
teaching refugees how to use modern communication so that they could get their
story to the world. That was wonderful.
When I was in Burundi in a very, very dangerous situation I met young people
again who were working there with the poor and working the with little children
and giving of their time and love. There's just so much you can do in the world
today to really, really bring about change - so believe passionately in yourself
and we will change this world. I have no doubt - good luck to you all and God
bless you all.