The highlight of Downpatrick’s Fairtrade fortnight was an address on Thursday evening by Nobel prize-winner Mairead Maguire at the ‘Market Street Café’ in Downpatrick on the positive impact of Fairtrade in the Third World, and her recent attempt to run the Gaza Blockade and sojourn in an Israeli prison.
Cllr Enright first introduced Mark McCormick, current chairperson of the Down Fairtrade campaign group. Mark played a series of short videos on Fairtrade Gold from South America, Cotton from Africa, bananas and other fruit, highlighting how these communities were now able to access education and health care for themselves and their children using Fairtrade to sell their products to the wider world.
Cllr Cadogan Enright then introduced Mairead Maguire of Kilclief, and recounted how back in 1976 she had led the ‘Peace People’ to try and seek peace in N.I. 22 years before it finally happened. He noted that she had won her Nobel prize before many people in the room were born.
Mairead Maguire said that “Many people in don’t realize that the Peace People movement is still going and working on several projects including our ongoing work with Israeli and Palestinian Peace Activists as you can see from our website at www.peacepeople.com”.
“The blockade has made the Gaza the largest prison in the world, with one and a half million people in an area less than the size of County Down, with no way of trading normally with the rest of the world. It is important to remember that many Israeli peace activists can realize the consequences of a forced economic destitution, and that it can only lead to trouble. Our small flotilla of boats attempted to lift the blockade last year with basic goods needed by people in Gaza. People who desperately need access to world markets to re-create their domestic economy,” said Mairead Maguire.
Ms Maguire described her 2010 experience on the aid ship ‘MV Rachel Corrie’ as part of the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ that attempted to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip. She recounted her experiences onboard the ship and afterwards when she was arrested and held by Israeli security forces.Ms Maguire said that speaking at a FairTrade event for her was very important because: “For peace to work properly, people need to be able to trade fairly.”
“Ordinary people in this area have the power to change the world by the way they spend their money. We can buy local, buy Fairtrade goods, use only Forestry Alliance certified wood and opt for renewable energy. Its usually the same price, but can change the world we leave to our children for the better,” concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright.