Global Leadership Awards SEVEN
Inez McCormack was a leading pioneer of Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement. But a life of social activism was not always in the cards for Inez.
Growing up, a Unionist background sheltered her from the inequities of a divided nation. In 1968, her participation in an anti-Vietnam rally changed all that. Her first taste of activism triggered a lifelong commitment to justice for forgotten workers, minorities and women. Years of grassroots organizing led to positions such as director of UNISON, the United Kingdom’s largest trade union, and as the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Inez led successful campaigns for women’s rights, strong equality laws and to assert the rights of those who are most excluded. She founded and led a broad coalition of groups who achieved strong, inclusive equality and human rights provisions that were included in the Good Friday Agreement. She has since campaigned for implementation of these rights as key to an understanding of conflict resolution based on the practice of justice.
In 2005, Inez founded the organization Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) which supports disadvantaged groups to assert their right to participate in social and economic decisions which affect their lives. PPR currently works with a wide range of groups on issues such as housing, mental health, urban regeneration, youth issues, domestic abuse and migrant rights, amongst others.
This work in enabling the most excluded to participate in public decisionmaking is gaining increasing recognition as deepening the understanding of healthy democratic practice. It is also demonstrating effective methods on how to reconnect economic growth and social progress at the global and the local levels. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights Commissioner, has described the work of the organization as “groundbreaking," saying, "They are not just challenging what is wrong, they are creating an inclusive sense of rights and dignity, they are engaged in pioneering work which will command much interest and application elsewhere."
Inez as a founding member of Vital Voices Global Advisory Council, and was honored in 2002 at our Global Leadership Awards in recognition of her contributions as a human rights advocate. Her remarkable story is profiled in our documentary play, SEVEN. Meryl Streep portrayed Inez’s work in this groundbreaking documentary theater production in New York in 2010. Inez was honored in March 2011 alongside Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep and Mu Sochua (Nobel Prize nominee from Cambodia) by U.S.-based publication Newsweek and U.S. news website The Daily Beast. They identified them in a list of "150 Women Who Shake the World" and were recognised for their work in enabling women to improve the quality of their lives through spreading the values of human rights.
Inez has received many awards, including an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University Belfast for her services to human rights and the community. In 2008, she received the prestigious Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Award. In 2010, Inez was invited by the Irish Government to chair their consultation process on UNSCR 1325 – Women, Peace and Security.