Hillary Clinton honours Inez

Hillary Clinton with Inez and Meryl Streep.
Hillary Clinton with Inez and Meryl Streep.

Newly announced U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, just days before her formal and public declaration, sent a message of support to the New York premiere of award-winning documentary film “Inez: A Challenging Woman” in honour of the life of Northern Ireland trade unionist Inez McCormack.

“I hope this screening inspires us all to redouble our efforts to take up the work for equality and justice that Inez so boldly led,” said Mrs Clinton.

The screening was co-hosted by the 1.9m member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – who visited Northern Ireland in November.

Hillary Clinton’s words were read by Mr DiNapoli to the audience of politicians, unions leaders, civil rights activists, as well as cleaners and domestic workers. She stated:

“I will always consider myself blessed to have known Inez and call her my friend. She was an extraordinary and transformative force for peace, affirming the capacity of people to come together for a common purpose; because of her trailblazing and inclusive work, countless women and girls today have more opportunities and have been inspired to become agents of change in their own communities.

“History will well note her courage, leadership, care and compassion.”

Comptroller DiNapoli told the audience that a focus of his office is not simply investing pension dollars, but doing so in a way that promotes equality and makes a difference in Northern Ireland.

The award-winning documentary also premiered in Boston (22nd March), Washington DC (9th April) as well as New York (10th April) over the last month in a series of screenings organised by a diverse range of groups including the Service Employees International Union, the New York State Comptroller, Vital Voices, Georgetown University and Fordham University. The screening in Boston was organised by the Boston Irish Film Festival.The screening in Boston, attended by Inez’s husband Vinny, coincided with the 30th anniversary of Inez’s evidence to the Massachusetts State legislature on the MacBride Principles for Fair Employment in 1985.

A special guest at the Boston performance was Kevin Blanchette, a State Representative at the Boston Hearing in 1985.

He told the audience: “Inez was a tornado. She was a relentless advocate of peace with justice in Northern Ireland. I was extremely proud that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first State to sign the MacBride Principles into law. They remain part of our legislation, and of our commitment to peace in Northern Ireland based upon fairness and equality.

“We commend the work of Participation and Practice of Rights, which Inez set up, and which forms part of the documentary. The MacBride Principles of affirmative action remain part of our legislation, and I know that Boston remains prepared to pursue peace with justice, as the only way forward for Northern Ireland, and as the best way to honour Inez’s memory.”

The documentary, awarded Best Short Documentary at the prestigious Galway Film Fleadh last year features a final interview given to her friend, the writer and broadcaster Susan McKay interview shortly before her death in January 2013.

In the interview Inez speaks strongly about the importance of implementing the human rights and equality commitments of the Good Friday Agreement in order to secure a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Inez McCormack was the first female President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and an unrelenting activist for the equality provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

She was a signatory to the historic MacBride Principles, a corporate code of conduct for US companies investing in Northern Ireland which demanded outcomes to address religious inequality in employment. In the last decade of her life, she established human rights organisation Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR)[i] to support deprived communities such as North and West Belfast to challenge the inequalities they face in housing, employment and health, and to have their voices heard.

Since 2006, PPR has grown to work across Northern Ireland and has received international acclaim from United Nations institutions for its approach to supporting marginalised people to assert their rights and hold government to account.