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Pride of Britain Award Winners 2001

Special Award

Pat Campbell

Pat Campbell never lost her belief that she could help bring peace to the troubled streets of Northern Ireland. Not even after a Loyalist killer murdered her youngest son in cold blood.

On January 9, 1992, Philip, 26, was running his fast food van on a lonely stretch of road 14 miles from Belfast when a car drew up.

A lone gunman stepped out and opened fire, killing Philip instantly. Police investigators discovered Pat's son had been picked out at random by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in revenge for a series of IRA bombings in Belfast.

Philip's only crime was to have been born a Roman Catholic.

It was a horrific crime that would have driven most people to rage, despair and thoughts of vengeance.

Not Pat Campbell. "In my heart, I have forgiven the man who killed my boy," says 65-year-old mother-of-five Pat.

"He was an innocent baby once, just like my Philip, and he was made into a killer by the hatred and bitterness that eats like a cancer at our society.

"I want no part of that. I want to stop bigotry twisting other women's sons into murderers - and stop other mothers' sons dying at their hands."

Pat is a leading figure in Women Together for Peace, a remarkable group which has been campaigning for peace and reconciliation, in the face of suspicion, hostility and even threats, since the very beginning of the Troubles.

Founders Ruth Agnew, a Protestant, and Monica Patterson, a Catholic, drew together women from both sides of the religious divide in the most strife-torn sections of Belfast.

The two women, who both died several years ago, staged mass rallies and candlelight vigils to stop street riots, supported families threatened by terrorist intimidation, cleared up after bombings and took traumatised children from troubled areas on holidays.

Pat, of Derriaghy, Belfast, joined the group in 1975, quickly giving up her job to become a full-time development officer.

She is now a life vice-president of the organisation "on part-time pay," she observes wryly.

She and her fellow campaigners have stood, hand-in-hand, in the path of mobs of angry youths, armed with stones and petrol bombs, to stop riots.

They have confronted gangs of bigots from both sides, intent on burning down churches.

Their mass peace rallies have brought towns to a standstill, earning plaudits from politicians of all creeds.

And a candlelit vigil outside the HQ of the Ulster Democratic Party is credited with helping to stop party members from ousting leader David Trimble and throwing the peace process into disarray.

Pat supports and comforts families who have lost relatives to the terrorists. With incredible optimism, she says her son's murder made her better at her job.

"It's hard, distressing work and I've collapsed twice through stress," she says. "But the people I talk to know that I've experienced what they are going through. I think my lack of bitterness helps them not to fall into hatred and despair. I know what I'm doing is not in vain."

I was blown away by the whole thing when I first went. I am always amazed by the winers they are extraordinary people... - Sir Paul McCartney

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