MacBride receives the Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of human rights, among other things as one of the founders of Amnesty International. In 1974 he is also Chairman of the International Peace Bureau and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and had recently been elected United Nations Commissioner for Namibia.
MacBride has nevertheless had a violent past. He is born in Paris on January 26, 1904, the son of Major John MacBride and Maud Gonne. His father is executed by the British in the Irish struggle for liberation from Great Britain. He is only 15 years old when he lies about his age to join the Irish Volunteers, which fight as part of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He takes part in the concluding battles against the British in the Irish War of Independence before the Irish Republic is founded in 1921, and in the Irish Civil War that follows. He backs Éamon de Valera in the latter’s refusal to accept Northern Ireland‘s continuing union with England. In the 1930s, he breaks with the IRA and qualifies in law. He defends IRA prisoners in Irish prisons who had been condemned to death.
After World War II MacBride serves as Minister for External Affairs for Ireland from 1948 to 1951. He plays a leading part in the establishment of the Council of Europe, and in the preparation of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950.
In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, MacBride also receives the Lenin Peace Prize for 1975–1976, the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1978, and the UNESCO Silver Medal for Service in 1980.