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Trip to Tipp

If you book them, they will come ... How a tiny Irish peace event attracts world figures

If you’re in Tipperary today, and see a guy who looks a bit like Ban Ki-Moon – that’s probably Ban Ki-Moon.

IF YOU HAPPEN to be around Tipperary town later today – you may notice a slightly heavier-than-usual garda presence.


No biggie…

Just UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, sweeping in, to pick up an award.

The Tipperary Peace Convention has been awarding its annual prize to major world figures since the early 1980s.

Unlike the (much) larger-scale Nobel, there’s no cash to pocket as part of the Irish honour – but that hasn’t stopped a steady procession of well-known faces from making the Trip to Tipp.

A special accommodation was made in the case of Nelson Mandela – who was given the award when he visited Dublin in 1990.

“I will go back to my country full of strength and hope and even more determined to smash apartheid,” he told Convention chairman Joe Quinn.

NELSON MANDELA IN IRELAND ANTI APARTHEID LEADERS Nelson Mandela on his visit to Dublin in 1990. Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

So what’s secret of project’s success?

“Tipperary is well known for it’s association with a war song,” honorary secretary of the Tipperary Peace Convention Martin Quinn says. The town has long been linked with ‘A Long Way To Tipperary’ – which was adopted by the British Army, and sung in the trenches of World War One.

The tune, in a round-about way, provided the inspiration for the peace initiative – when, more than three decades ago, a group of locals gathered to discuss ways to promote the town.

“Without ever wanting to take from the song and its history, the group felt that it would be wonderful if something could be done to promote peace,” says Quinn.

A forum was organised – a place where people working in the area could gather and talk – and for the first few years, the prize was held at the same time as those other events.

Eventually, the prize ceremony was separated, and held on its own. And along with the likes of Mandela – well-known Irish figures like Adi Roche, John O’Shea of GOAL, Bob Geldof and President and Martin McAleese have been awarded with the honour.

tipp4 Tipperary Peace Convention Tipperary Peace Convention

The committee – made up entirely of locals – picks out a shortlist each year, before announcing the main winner. Says Quinn: ”For the award to be effective and acknowledged around the world – we need the recipients to come”.

We’ve built up a rapport with various people over the years – and that all helps.

Richard Haass – the US diplomat who presided over talks in the North – was awarded the prize last year. And the event made headlines in 2013 as Malala Yousafzai used her speech to spread her message about the value of education.

tipp2 Tipperary Peace Convention / Facebook Tipperary Peace Convention / Facebook / Facebook

Tonight, the Ballykisteen hotel – on the outskirts of the Tipperary town – will play host to the 40th most powerful man in the world.

After a short ceremony and speeches – he’ll be treated to a performance of traditional Irish music, including a song written especially for the occasion.

South Korea Koreas UN Chief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Ahn Young-joon Ahn Young-joon

So … If you happen to be reading this in the vicinity this morning – yes, that probably was the Secretary General of the UN you just ran into, in the local Spar.

Read: ‘I don’t want to be the girl who was shot by the Taliban – I want to be the girl who fought for the rights of every child’

Read: “The grandfather I never had…” Prince Charles on Lord Mountbatten 

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