Remembering My Friend Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams (RIP)


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

Betty Williams (22 May 1943 – 18 Mar 2020), Nobel Peace Laureate, Co-Founder Peace People (1976)

23 Mar 2020 – Today, a final farewell to Betty Williams took place at Roselawn Cemetery, Belfast.

However, because of the Coronavirus restrictions put on Burials, it was a sad day for her family and friends as they could not gather in the Roselawn Chapel (it was closed) to grieve and wish Betty goodbye and thank her for all she had given to them personally, to the people of Ireland, to the world.   For a woman who loved her daughter Debbie, her son Paul, and her three grandchildren passionately and who responded with an urgency and strength to anyone suffering who asked her help, especially children, it was a sad occasion, and yet it was too a time for a celebration of a life well lived.  Betty Williams loved life, she enjoyed her life and she loved people.

On 17 Mar 2020, Betty was admitted by ambulance to the Royal Hospital, Belfast.   On the morning of 18 Mar at 7.30 a.m., Betty passed away.  She had a difficult few years after back surgery and other health problems.   I last saw her at a Peace Summit in Barcelona and, as we greeted each other,  I was shocked at how frail she had become and in pain and weakened by back pain.  In spite of this, I still was shocked to hear of her death on 18 March.

I therefore would like to take this opportunity to extend to Betty’s daughter, Debbie, son Paul, and Betty’s three grand-children and extended family members, the sympathy of my husband, Jack, myself, and family, the sympathy of all her friends in the Peace People and reconciliation movement, both at home and in the international community.

Ciaran McKeown walking with Mairead  Maguire and Betty Williams, N. Ireland 1970s –

I loved Betty and I consider it a great privilege to have known and worked with her.   Betty was a woman of great courage, with a loving compassion for all children.  After returning from living in the United States, she choose to live in the Republic of Ireland, (2004) and together with her daughter Debbie, set up an organization, World Centre of Compassion for Children (WCCC) in Knock, Galway. Through this organization, she in her great spirit of generosity reached out to many people globally. She had a particular love of Italy where she worked with refugees and migrants.

For myself and those who had the pleasure of knowing her as a friend and co-worker for peace, she will be sadly missed, but we will remember and celebrate a great life lived to the full and in service of the children for whom she had a deep compassion and love. Thank you Betty from all your friends and particularly the Youth whom you inspired so much.


Elizabeth Williams was a peace activist from Northern Ireland. She was a co-recipient with Mairead Corrigan Maguire of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work as a cofounder of Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Wikipedia


Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See:

The Peace People began in 1976 as a protest movement against the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland. Its three founders were Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown. Over 100,000 people were involved in the initial movement and two of the founders, Mairead and Betty, received the Nobel Peace Prize for that year. Since its inception, the organization has been committed to building a just, peaceful society through nonviolent means – a society based on respect for each individual, and that has at its core the highest standards of human and civil rights.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Mar 2020.

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