Tipperary is known the world over for the song, It’s a long way to Tipperary, a song that is associated with war, particularly the First World War, as it was introduced to the front by soldiers of the Irish regiments as they made their way to battle, Tipperary International Peace Prize chairman Martin Quinn said at last week’s prize giving ceremony.
“However, we like to think that modern Tipperary is now known for its efforts to promote peace and peaceful co-operation on a national and international stage through the work of Tipperary Peace Convention. You could say then that Tipperary has learned from the past in planning for a peaceful future and that we are helping to sow the seeds of peace for this and for future generations to come,” he said.
For close on 30 years, Tipperary has been playing its part to promote the message of peace and to bring people together to share in the lessons of the past in planning for a peaceful future.
“The work of Tipperary Peace Convention won’t change the world, but it can be like a pebble that hits the water, it will create a small ripple and will then cascade out into ever larger circles,” he said.
A key cornerstone of the work of Tipperary Peace Convention is the recognition given to the recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Award. Extraordinary achievers who have overcome innumerable Everests along the way in order to achieve the unthinkable, reccalling some of those who have recevied the award.
“We will formally add another extraordinary achiever to the list when we present Malala Yousafzai with the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award,” said Mr Quinn.
The chairman pointed out that they had heard Galway students praising in song the campaign of Malala Yousafzai, telling us that basic rights and education can not be denied. The rights that these students sing about are rights that we take for granted.
“How different then the scenario for girls trying to receive an education under the Taliban. It was because of the difficulties in accessing education under Taliban rule that prompted a young girl to write a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym from Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
“Writing about life under Taliban rule and on issues such as women’s rights and girls’ education did not come without its risks but that didn’t deter this girl from speaking out and from telling the world her story; a story that also told about her home and how beautiful it was, her school and her studies. With the blog increasing in popularity so the danger increased and when word got out to the Taliban of the real identity of the blogger, they came to silence her,” he said.
Mr Quinn recalled that on October 9, 2012, a Taliban militia boarded her schoolbus. They called her by name and they shot Malala Yousafzai at point blank range in the head. They had come to silence her writings and her voice and they believed that they had succeeded.
“How wrong they proved to be. Malala miraculously survived and instead of silencing her they amplified her voice. As she made the long journey to recovery Malala became more resolute in her belief of the importance of campaigning for the right to education and of the importance of pens and books over guns. As she grew stronger her voice grew stronger and in the process she became a global symbol of hope for millions of girls around the world,” said Mr Quinn.
The chairman said that some girls in the audience may be near to celebrating their 16th birthday and pointed out that Malala celebrated her 16th birthday by finding her voice again.
“On July 12, just nine months after she was shot, she was telling hundreds of young people at an assembly at the United Nations, to use education as a weapon against extremism. No talk of revenge from Malala for the terrible deed carried out by the Taliban. Just talk of the right to education for every child even for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists”.
“Speaking at the UN Malala said that we realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced and we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. Perhaps a quote from a Tipperary based priest by the name of Canon John Hayes would be appropriate: ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’.”
Mr Quinn told Ms Yousafzai: “You stand as one girl among many, speaking not for yourself but for all those who have no one to speak for them. You are now their voice as represented by the millions of children around the world who are shouting at rallies in support of you. And all the millions of voices around the world that are now shouting will not rest until the governments of the world have secured education for each and every child.
“Malala knows that the Taliban is scared of the power of education and equality. The bullets that were fired to silence her have now given voice to her campaign for a brighter future for every child,” he said.
Mr Quinn said that Malala would ever be well enough to address the UN or to travel to Tipperary to receive an award was not in her family’s consideration when they saw her struggling for life after the assassination attempt.
“You might ask why has Tipperary Peace Convention selected Malala for this award. She was selected for the award not because of what happened to her, but because of what she has done in spite of what has happened to her. Though still a child and fragile and susceptible to real human fears she nonetheless possesses a strength and maturity beyond her years. Her campaign to effect change has already brought significant awareness of the struggle that she and many others face when it comes to the issue of education for girls and women. Her young life story to date is one of courage in the face of adversity, perseverance through the most difficult of situations and an unwavering belief in the power of love, compassion and forgiveness. Malala is no longer an ordinary girl; she is a symbol of our generation and its struggles against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism”.
“While this award will hopefully be an inspiration to you Malala, you in turn serve as an inspiration to us and an example of what can be achieved against what seems to be insurmountable odds. Your courage and your renewed voice signals a brighter future of change, a reminder that the truth is stranger than fiction and that anything is possible as long as there is hope.