The Embassy of Ireland in the US launched the Peace Heroines exhibition last Wednesday at the Rayburn Gold room in the US Congress "in the healing spirit of Brigid," according to organizers Herstory.
The Peace Heroines exhibition, organized in partnership with Herstory, National Museums NI, and the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund to create the Peace Heroines education programme, includes stunning new portraits of leading female peace-building figures such as Monica McWilliams, Pat Hume, and Baroness May Blood by the artist Marian Noone, also known as Friz.
Speakers at Wednesday's event in Washington included Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Micheál Martin, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (Democrat from Pennsylvania), Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (Republican from New York), and featured Peace Heroine Bronagh Hinds.
Celebrating #StBrigidsDay with the #PeaceHeroines exhibition in DC this evening👩🕊️💚
Honoured to be joined by peacebuilder and women's rights activist, Bronagh Hinds, to highlight the role of women in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Find out more: https://t.co/yhJEBBX22o pic.twitter.com/SPq8A4jFnH— Embassy of Ireland, USA (@IrelandEmbUSA) February 8, 2023
Herstory says that women from all walks of life played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process through their work in education, cross-community dialogue, and political activism. Many of these women continue to work as peacebuilders today, inspiring new generations of women to take on leadership roles of their own.
Herstory CEO & project curator Melanie Lynch reveals the inspiration behind the Peace Heroines project: “When I met with Ireland's former Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Nason-Byrne, she explained to me that the role of women in the Northern Ireland Peace Process is a key United Nations case study.
"I reached out to our school contacts and they confirmed that this essential story is not taught on the official school curriculum in Northern Ireland or the Republic.
"Our new Peace Heroines project aims to change that and introduce students and the public to these legendary activists and inspire the next generation of peace builders. It’s time to write herstory into history.”
The Peace Heroines exhibition, which is on display at Derry Tower Museum through March 24, will be hosted at the United Nations in New York City from April 3 - 7 before heading to the Queen’s University Belfast GFA conference, Enniskillen Castle in Co Fermanagh, Linen Hall Library in Belfast, and the Down County Museum and Newry & Mourne Museum later this year.
Legendary peace activist and Good Friday Agreement strategist Bronagh Hinds says: “As we mark 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement, Herstory's vibrant exhibition shines a light on women peacebuilders in Northern Ireland.
"It shows the grassroots collaboration among women that created the foundations for peace. It demonstrates women’s determination to bring pragmatic solutions to seemingly intractable political problems in the peace negotiations.
"Those at the event loved the exhibition, reading the stories and listening to the experiences. They got a real sense of the challenges that women faced as they led and championed inclusion, equality and rights for all as the bedrock for sustainable peace. Herstory did a fantastic job in bringing this to life."
Martin Fraser, Ireland's Ambassador to the United Kingdom, hosted the London Embassy’s St. Brigid’s Day celebrations with a timely spotlight on the peace heroines.
The Ambassador said: “The Irish Embassy in London was honoured to host a Women in Peace panel as part of our St Brigid’s Day celebration, chaired by Aingeal O’Donoghue, Director General of the European Union Division in the DFA, and featuring contributions from three of Northern Ireland’s peace activists Anne Carr, Susan McCrory, and Eileen Weir.
"Hearing first-hand some of the experiences of these women, and of those they have worked with, really drives home the significance of their courage and resilience. It was an honour to welcome them to speak, especially as we enter the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The Embassy is also delighted to be exhibiting nine portraits by visual artist FRIZ of ground-breaking Irish women who played noteworthy roles in the Peace Process, from the Peace Heroines exhibition, originated by Herstory and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
Kildare is the ancient home of Saint Brigid. Last night at our #StBrigidsDay reception @intokildare presented Amb Martin Fraser with a specially commissioned piece of bog-oak. pic.twitter.com/wViT8dA35s— Embassy of Ireland (@IrelandEmbGB) February 2, 2023
On February 10, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, visited Peace Heroines in the Derry Tower Museum, in addition to the Northern Ireland Office’s programme of events marking the 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
Speaking after viewing the exhibition, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, said: “Women played a pivotal role in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement negotiations and continue to do so today through further peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts throughout communities in Northern Ireland. The portraits of Northern Ireland’s iconic female peacebuilders are simply inspiring.
“The UK Government is unshakable in its commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and the 25th anniversary marks an extraordinary achievement for Northern Ireland. It is important we showcase women’s contribution to the Agreement to inspire the next generation and build on the remarkable progress Northern Ireland has made this past quarter century.”
♀️ Fascinating to see @HerstoryIreland’s Peace Heroines exhibition in Derry-Londonderry today.
👏 In the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement's 25th anniversary year, it's important to showcase women's pivotal role in the peace process & their inspiring work today. #GFA25 pic.twitter.com/gnFTCjUfGL— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) February 10, 2023
Herstory notes that at a key crossroads in humanity’s history, Northern Ireland is an inspiration to Ukraine and other countries in conflict. The Northern Irish peace process is generally agreed to be one of the most successful in the world. As the Ukraine - Russia war continues, causing immeasurable suffering and destabilising Europe and beyond, the NI peace process and the pivotal role of women proves the potential for justice, equality, peace and healing in the most challenging circumstances.
“When you taste peace and you have the prize of peace, there is no going back.” - Professor Emeritus Monica McWilliams, negotiator and signatory of the Good Friday Agreement.