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Tributes from State Leaders
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend, Inez McCormack. For decades, Inez promoted peace and reconciliation in her beloved Northern Ireland and around the world. She challenged women and men to find a way to put aside their differences, move past hurt and anger, and work together to end violence and build a fair and lasting peace. It was a tremendous challenge, but Inez met it with joy.
Inez used to say that true leadership isn’t a final destination. It’s a process. And it starts with the simple act of stepping up when the opportunity arises. From her early days as a community organizer and trade union leader, she stepped up again and again — always with her trademark smile.
When sectarian conflict was tearing Northern Ireland apart, she brought a diverse group together to find a way toward peace. She also understood that it wasn’t just about stopping the killing; it was about supporting the living. So once the Good Friday Agreement was signed, she stayed to help mend communities.
People called her a hero. She’d say, “I’m just a crazy woman who thinks Catholics are the same as Protestants.”
Until her final days, she never stopped promoting peace, human rights and equality. She traveled the world encouraging young women to be agents of change in their communities and countries.
I recently visited Northern Ireland and saw the legacy of her work. There is more we must do to build lasting peace and prosperity in communities, but we have come so far in part because of her insistence on a seat at the table for women and others who have been marginalized.
Of all her accomplishments, her daughter and grandchildren made her proudest. My thoughts and prayers go out to her husband Vinny, daughter Anne, son-in-law Mark, granddaughter Maisie, grandson Jamie, the people of Northern Ireland and all those who are better off because of her. Let us recommit ourselves to her vision of a just and equal society, and honor her legacy by joining together in common cause.
Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Inez McCormack. Inez was a passionate and committed human rights activist who fought all her life and in so many settings for the creation of a fairer society for workers, for minorities, and for women. In her pursuit of a better and more equal world she demonstrated courage, integrity and true grit in pushing against the boundaries of exclusion.
She has left behind a great legacy as the first President of ICTU, the first woman full-time official of the National Union of Public Employees; the first woman Regional Secretary of UNISON the first woman elected to the Northern Ireland Committee of Congress and its first woman Chair.
Inez will be remembered as a great pioneer, who broke through so many challenges and barriers, a brave fighter, and a person of extraordinary generosity whose contribution to an inclusive citizenship and a better world has been immense.
She will be greatly missed by all those privileged to know her, and above all by her family and friends to whom I, as Uachtarán na hÉireann, offer my deepest sympathies."
Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Inez was a remarkable woman with a remarkable capacity for friendship. Often apart for weeks, or months, or even a year, we would simply resume our conversation. She would want us to remember the positive issues she embraced with a combination of lateral thinking and supportive warmth: the McBride Principles; her leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and her own Union, Unison; her championing of women's rights and combatting gender based violence, at home and in countries of conflict.
It was from Inez I learned that you can achieve much more if you don't need the credit. Her support to me as a close advisor when I served as President was invaluable, but she never appeared in photographs or in the front row.
Inez had unique qualities of listening and affirming. They enabled her to encourage local communities - in Belfast initially, then throughout the island- to engage with the International Human Rights System and use it as a tool to empower them in addressing the quality and fairness of local authority services. The innovative nature of this work was recognised recently by the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights as a great example for other communities to follow.
Her last months were rich and life enhancing, as she coped stoically with acute pain and discomfort. We can be comforted by the images of how radiant Inez looked at Anne's wedding to Mark, surrounded by her beloved Vinnie, her adored grandchildren Maisie and Jamie, and proud family and friends. A life well lived. May she rest in peace.