I have known Don Mullan through a number of his different roles, including his work with Concern Worldwide and his promotion of the legacy of Fredrick Douglass. I am also aware of his ground breaking work in establishing the facts about Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.
The common threads of Don’s life and work have been a deep commitment to justice and human rights as well as a determination to contribute to a better future. He brings to his various causes a huge creativity, a capacity to see connections between unlikely things and an ability to build relationships between people.
And he does all this with good humour, grace and perseverance.
Former CEO Concern Worldwide
Former Director General, Institute of International and European Affairs
Don Mullan, a human rights activist… brims with ideas, big ones, about combating hunger and poverty and injustice — and about the power of history and symbolism to do so. And he gets things done. He counts Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sister Helen Prejean and Pelé as friends… “Don has this genius for how the lessons of the past can be used to achieve real change in the present.”
Ms. Louise Kantrow Executive Director International League for Human Rights 823 United Nations Plaza Suite 717 New York, NY 10017
I very much regret that health reasons prevent me from attending the Defender’s Awards Ceremony. My very special reason for wanting to be with the League on this wonderful occasion was to pay honour and tribute to Don Mullan who will be receiving one of the awards. I have known Don for many years in our common effort to keep alive the meaning of Bloody Sunday to the cause of freedom and democracy in the world.
Don[‘s]… commitment to human rights began in the midst of the cruel hail of bullets shot by British paratroopers which killed so many of his young friends who were demonstrating with him for democracy in Northern Ireland on that tragic day of January 30, 1972. From his survival on that day to the present, Don has been a witness to government abuse of the rights of free people. He has written a lasting account of that horrible day and has probed and investigated other abuses by government and exposed them publically. His voice is constantly heard, often in the United States, reminding a sometimes complacent public of the need to be alert and to speak out for human rights.
Don is a true defender and fully deserving of the Defender’s Award the International League is giving him.
You may view a copy of the original letter by clicking here.
Susan G. Hackley, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School, Harvard University
Don Mullan visited the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School in 2004 for a discussion on the film “Bloody Sunday” and the event of that day in 1972 in Derry, which he had witnessed as a schoolboy.
Don was extremely generous with his time, and our faculty and students learned a great deal from his personal accounts of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the subsequent investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday. His discussions about his book, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, helped explain the roots of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and his personal quest for justice was an inspirational story of how one individual can make a difference.
Many of us felt that Don’s talks were highlights of the spring semester, and we would highly recommend him to others looking for a knowledgeable speaker on the Irish conflict and human rights.
We also encouraged Don to apply for the prestigious Nieman fellowship offered by Harvard University. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise for an academic year of study in any part of the university.
We also encouraged Don to stay in touch with his future plans and any ways we can be of assistance. Indeed, we have been delighted to welcome Don back on other occasions.
Rev. Denis Holtschneider, President, DePaul University
As president of DePaul University in Chicago, the largest Catholic university in the United States, I can give Don Mullan my strongest recommendation. My conversations and interactions with him reveal him to be a man of great principle, insight, collaboration and forgiveness. He proved his effectiveness to bring about positive change and reconciliation through his book “Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth,” … [which contributed to an] historic government apology.
Don is a spellbinding storyteller who brings a passion for justice to the fight. He is tireless and generous…
Don has served many roles throughout his life: witness, historian, writer, educator and human rights crusader. He has used nonviolence to correct historical errors and deliver justice to those denied. He is a determined person and has the ability to overcome personal hurdles, like his struggle with dyslexia. He commands respect and has demonstrated his ability to bring people together around a cause. Perhaps his best contribution is his imagination and the capacity to put unusual ideas together and dream of a different future.
Woody Kerkeslager, former Mayor of Madison, New Jersey
Don Mullan’s association with our town of Madison New Jersey has been brief but spectacular…
Don is able to reimagine Madison, the Rose City, precisely because he brings an outsider’s fresh and keen eye to a town that many of us think we know so well. But it is his humanitarian focus and his soaring imagination and creativity that allow him to see an opportunity to reinvigorate our beautiful town without changing the things we love so well.
Don Mullan’s reputation is legendary as an indomitable and passionate campaigner for human rights, for truth, for reconciliation through commemoration and for peace-building.
I only have to think of the long journey to the truth about Bloody Sunday to be reminded of Don’s huge contribution to that long and unsatisfactory journey, through the mills of distortion to the final light of honesty and vindication. And yet it is only one part of Don’s remarkable story of championing causes others neglected, nursing them into public consciousness and helping us grow through their telling and retelling. From St Brigid’s fire, to the Famine, from Frederick Douglass to the Fields of Flanders, his never still mind insists on opening fresh navigation channels to be explored.
Don Mullan’s commitment to fundamental human rights which underpins everything, and unifies and strengthens each project, gives us all renewed faith in humanity and its capacity for good.
I am looking forward to seeing where Hope Initiatives International will take us.
Like millions of boys around the globe, Don Mullan’s ambition was to become a professional footballer like Gordon Banks and, one day, play for his country. And, like millions of such boys, that never happened for various reasons. But the friendships he made and the discipline he learned from the game ultimately helped to form Don’s character and make him a better person. And that is the greatest result sport can hope to achieve.
At all levels, sport should not be about winning at any cost. Its primary goal should be about helping young people to become better, more healthy and caring citizens. That goal is far more important than winning medals, even World Cup and Olympic medals. And, thankfully, that’s what sport did for Don.
(From the foreword to ‘The Boy Who Wanted to Fly’ by Don Mullan)
I’ve previously described Don Mullan as ‘a safe pair of hands’ and I’m confident that he will succeed in bringing these projects to fruition.
I have fond memories of when we worked together on the movies BLOODY SUNDAY which was inspired by his book ‘Eyewitness Bloody Sunday’, and also on the film OMAGH. Don’s commitment to helping to bring about peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland is unwavering and his achievements to date have been impressive.
Don’s interests range widely, and it is always stimulating to engage with someone who is so passionate and committed. I know if anyone can achieve the goals of Hope Initiatives International, it will be him.
Don’s CV speaks for itself. He is, amongst many talents: an experienced justice campaigner who effectively helped us during the darkest days of South African apartheid; a bestselling author and an accomplished public speaker with three investigative books that contributed to the establishment of three inquiries (including the longest and most expensive Public Inquiry in British legal history); the co-producer of a trilogy of award-winning movies about the Irish conflict; a documentary filmmaker; creator of the first mobile/cell phone photographic exhibition in the world; the concept developer of three significant historical monuments and campaigns in Ireland, England, the USA and Belgium. In 1993 Don was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Don’s strength is in harnessing key historical moments through which he seeks to heal the hurts of history by arguing the moral imperative, and benefits, to be achieved by applying the lessons of yesterday to help mend and change the present.
Don Mullan’s work on variety of levels has been remarkable and significant. Perhaps best known as an investigative journalist and documenter of history, he laid out in explicit detail the tragedy of Northern Ireland’s Bloody Sunday in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday. But far from a simple book, his work formed the basis for a nonpartisan acknowledgement by all sides of the conflict, of the wrongs done. The critical investigation of his book helped make all aware of the reality of events and served as a critical reference piece for politicians, judges, and tribunals who sought to understand what happened on that fateful day. His work was fundamental to the eventual establishment of rulings bringing justice and restoring honor to the families and victims. We all dream that our work could have such impacts. Don’s work did just this.
Most people would be content with such an accomplishment, but that has certainly not been the case for Don. Despite its massive impact, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday is only a small part of Don Mullan’s contribution to human rights and social justice. From detailed studies of the Troubles in Ireland, to the documenting the impacts of former American slave Frederick Douglas in fighting for freedom globally, to his personal growth through cross-cultural dialogue via sport and interaction with the legendary Gordon Banks and Pelé, Don has continued to rigorously highlight not only the differences that have divided us, but far, far more importantly, the common aspects of humanity that unite us.
In closing, we have found Don to be not just a gifted investigative journalist, writer and commentator. On many occasions, we have witnessed him interact with everyone from famous celebrities to primary school children. In all settings, we have always found him to consistently speak from the heart (without prepared notes of PowerPoint presentations no less!) and demand that we all dedicate ourselves to peace, reconciliation, personal growth, and the advancement of the human condition. We’ve no doubt that his future involvement with all groups and organizations will continue this quest and result in high levels of success, and most importantly substantial social change for justice and equality.
Three decades ago, Don Mullan saw a spark within an obscure story. In 1847, Choctaw Indians donated monies to the victims of the Famine in Ireland. They had just survived a similar holocaust. Don was director of (AFrI) Action from Ireland, and he made sure that the small story made the rounds; interviews, lectures and media coverage. The story grew. Today that small story, of one poor and dispossessed people reaching out to another, has traveled the world.
The story also speaks to a greater, more compassionate common humanity; our better angels. Because that’s what Don does. He illuminates our shared sense of self, so that all may see. His genius is to discern true spirit and understanding in common places so often overlooked, in order to bring people together in common cause and within a common humanity. We have always been better for it.
Don’s rare gift of seeing and then unleasing the brightest potential in all of us has blossomed into government social justice investigations, the Frederick Douglass Initiative, the Christmas Truce Project, hope and reconciliation in Ireland, film and television documentaries, acclaimed literature, and ongoing inspiration for thousands worldwide, through ways almost too numerous to mention. He was the first to travel to the Choctaw Nation to thank my people for their 1847 gift to Famine Ireland. And Don’s influence is the reason I’m now living in Ireland.
Hope Initiatives International is the inevitable result of Don’s lifelong service to others, a full and beautiful devotion to true humanitarian and social justice causes. For we need hope now, more than ever in a world so often given over to darkness. Don is a sincere and gifted light bringer, and I can’t wait to see the glow; the many shining, lasting differences that Hope Initiatiatives International will accomplish.