Betty Williams Obituary, Death – On the afternoon of August 10, 1976, in the heartland of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), Andersonstown, located in west Belfast, the weather was hot and sunny. However, as usual, the continuous battle was being acted out, and this time it was a British army patrol following a suspect in a racing automobile through streets filled with shoppers and pedestrians. When the pursuit reached Finaghy Road North at around 2:00 in the afternoon, the troops opened fire on the speeding car, ultimately taking the life of “Volunteer” Danny Lennon, who was 23 years old.
Almost instantly, he lost control of his vehicle, which promptly careened onto the sidewalk in front of a church. It had already run over three children and their mother, Anne Maguire, prior to coming to a stop against the railings as it careened down the road. Two of Joanne’s brothers, Andrew, who was six weeks old and John, who was two years old, passed away instantly, while Joanne, who was eight years old, and another brother, John, who was two, passed away from their injuries the following day.
Anne woke up after being in a coma for several days, but eight years later, she took her own life. Another youngster, Mark, who is seven years old and was riding his bike ahead of the family group, was fortunate enough to avoid injuries. A second occupant of the car managed to get away from the scene. Betty Williams, a resident of the area who worked as a receptionist in an office, was one of the first people to arrive at the scene after hearing the gunfire. She was terrified, and in the immediate aftermath of the event she initiated a petition, going door to door and advocating for peace in Northern Ireland. She soon collected 6,000 signatures on the petition.
“There had been other tragic deaths,” Williams, who has since passed away at the age of 76, stated at the time. “but the tragedy of the little Maguires was the moment when I felt we just could not take any more.” At the heartbreaking funeral for three children, Williams sought out Mairead Corrigan, an aunt of the deceased children, to console her. It was a discussion that would later prove to have far-reaching implications for both of them.