McGuinness nominated for top peace award

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness

Sinn Fein veteran Martin McGuinness has been nominated for a peace prize which includes the likes of Nelson Mandela among its past winners.

The former Northern Ireland deputy first minister, who stepped down from politics last month due to ill-health, is on the short list for the 2016 Tipperary International Peace Award.

Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, spent almost 10 years at the helm of devolved government in Belfast, first with the late Ian Paisley and then Democratic Unionist leaders Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.

He stood down as deputy first minister amid the “cash for ash” scandal of the Renewable Heat Incentive which paid over-the-top subsidies for those who put in special boilers.

The former Sinn Fein chief negotiator joins five other contenders for the award including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.

Based at Doughty Street Chambers in London, Ms Clooney has been part of several United Nations commissions and tribunals. She is married to actor George Clooney.

The Tipperary Peace Convention will announce the winner in the coming weeks.

The other nominees are Kenyan-based Irish priest Fr Patrick Devine who has worked in Africa for 25 years to mitigate conflict and poverty and Lady Rabab al Sadr, a Lebanese activist and philanthropist who worked with the Imam al-Sadr Foundation providing economic assistance and social guidance to orphaned and dependent girls.

Two organisations were short-listed - Amnesty International (Ireland) and the Syrian White Helmets, a volunteer group which rescues people in the Syrian civil war and is said to have saved more than 78,000 lives.

Previous recipients include Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by the Taliban on her way to school, former UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon, former president of Ireland Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, and Bob Geldof.

TUV East Londonderry election candidate Jordan Armstrong called for those behind the award to “seriously reconsider” the decision. He said Mr McGuinness, “by his own admission”, was a former IRA commander.