Tributes to Maurice Healy: ‘social justice champion’

The late Maurice Healy.
The late Maurice Healy.

Derry man Maurice Healy, who established many social justice and peacebuilding initiatives with marginalised groups and individuals from all sides of the NI community, passed away this week after a short illness.

Mr Healy, who was described by Ráth Mór’s founding director Conal McFeely as “one of the unsung heroes of inclusive peacebuilding initiatives”, was aged just 49.

Through his work with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, Mr Healy ran the International Fund for Ireland’s ‘Peace Impact Programme’ (PIP) in the North.

The work frequently meant Mr Healy engaging with dissenting loyalist and republican groupings. But, because of his talent for “gentle diplomacy and just listening”, he won the respect of all those he dealt with.

Mr Healy worked tirelessly to establish inclusive forums for a wide range of marginalised individuals and groups, many of whom had been lifelong political opponents. These forums allowed the participants to take part in discussions, meetings and partner together on social justice issues - and, in many instances, become friends.

He was also involved in setting up many programmes to protect vulnerable young people and assist them in seeking positive pathways to achieve their full potential.

Ráth Mór’s Conal McFeely said they had been “privileged and fortunate” to have worked on numerous projects with Maurice. He added that loyalist, republican and other marginalised groupings across the North had been “devastated” by news of the Derry man’s death.

“Maurice was one of the unsung heroes of building the capacity of marginalised individuals and communities in the North,” he said. “His work impacted on many communities alienated by poverty and economic exclusion, and on those left behind due to shortcomings in the peace process. His commitment to advancing the case for the most marginalised sections of our communities in society was second to none.

“He believed in an integrated, shared, peaceful and socially-just society – and was a real advocate for disaffected and marginalised young people left behind by the peace process.

“I have no doubt Maurice’s work as a consensus builder, and his many sensitive interventions, both improved lives and saved lives. He was genuinely loved and respected by all sides here and by his many friends in Derry and throughout this island.”

St Columb’s Park House director Brian Dougherty said: “It is poignant that this time last year I sat beside Maurice Healy at the Londonderry Bands Forum Gala concert. He was a great friend and supporter of the Bands Forum and North-West Cultural Partnership and will be sadly missed.”