Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mary McAleese

Mary Patricia McAleese (Irish: Máire Pádraigín Bean Mhic Ghiolla Íosa; born 27 June 1951) served as the eighth President of Ireland from 1997 to 2011. She was the second female president and was first elected in 1997 succeeding Mary Robinson, making McAleese the world's first woman to succeed another as president. She was re-elected unopposed for a second term in office in 2004. McAleese is the first President of Ireland to have come from either Northern Ireland or Ulster.

McAleese graduated in Law from Queen's University Belfast. In 1975, she was appointed Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queen's, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen's University of Belfast. She worked as a barrister and also worked as a journalist with RTÉ.

McAleese has used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. She has described the theme of her Presidency as "Building Bridges". This bridge-building materialised in her attempts to reach out to the unionist community in Northern Ireland. These steps included celebrating the Twelfth of July at Áras an Uachtaráin and she even incurred criticism from some of the Irish Catholic hierarchy by taking communion in a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin. Despite being a practicing Roman Catholic, she holds liberal views regarding homosexuality and women priests. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and was ranked the 64th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In spite of some minor controversies, McAleese remained popular and her Presidency is regarded as successful.

Background and Family Life
Born Mary Patricia Leneghan (Irish: Máire Pádraigín Ní Lionnacháin) in Ardoyne, north Belfast, McAleese was the eldest of nine children. She is a Roman Catholic. Her family was forced to leave the area by loyalists when The Troubles broke out. Educated at St Dominic's High School, she also spent some time when younger with the Poor Clares, Queen's University Belfast (from which she graduated in 1973), and Trinity College, Dublin. She was called to the Northern Irish Bar in 1974, and remains a member of the Irish Bar. She opposes abortion and divorce.

In 1976, she married Martin McAleese, an accountant and dentist by profession. He has assisted his wife with some of her initiatives as president. They have three children: Emma, born 1982, graduated as an engineer from University College Dublin and is a dentistry student at Trinity College, Dublin; twins: Justin, an accountant with a master's degree from University College Dublin, and SaraMai, who obtained a master's degree in biochemistry at the University of Oxford were born in 1985.

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