The President of Ireland has paid tribute to the determination and courage of human rights activist Inez McCormack during a special event in Belfast today.
Michael D Higgins joined former president Mary Robinson and over 200 guests at a celebration of the trade unionist’s life.
She died in January following a short illness.
The President said: “Her ability to constantly question the status quo demonstrated not only the strength of mind which was such an integral part of Inez’ personality but also the emancipatory thinking that marks out the true progressive; the person prepared to challenge false inevitabilities and question the taken for granted assumptions of the world we inhabit and the future we wish to craft together.”
The event was organised by the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) organisation, which was established by Inez in 2006. PPR provides support to local disadvantaged communities and groups in using a rights-based approach to change the social and economic inequalities and deprivation they face.
Mr Higgins added: “It takes great courage and moral strength to stand up to the perceived norms within society and to question the bureaucratic controls that can so often stifle progress.
“It takes enormous determination and persistence to constantly challenge the rigid mindsets that obstruct creative thinking and to refuse to give in to the easier alternative of remaining silent.”
Ms Robinson said she was remarkable and an extraordinary organiser.
“Inez was many things to many people, and to me her defining characteristic was her innate sense and belief in the dignity and value of every human being,” she said.
“She always challenged what was wrong and worked to secure the rights of people; on many occasions this was without any public recognition as Inez was a very private person.”
Ms McCormack was the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
An unrelenting activist for the equality provisions outlined in the Good Friday Agreement, in the 1980s, she was also a signatory to the MacBride Principles, a corporate code of conduct for US companies investing in the North which demanded they address religious inequality in employment.
In 2011 she was named by US publication Newsweek as one of 150 Women Who Shake the World – a recognition of her work to improve the quality of women’s lives through human rights values.