Ireland tolerant despite downturn


Ireland is determined to remain a place that is tolerant of other cutures despite the harsh economic climate we now find ourselves in, President Mary McAleese said today.

Addressing the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on its sixth anniversary in Strasbourg, Ms McAleese said that Ireland owed the council a debt of gratitude for its support in assisting the peace process in the north.

Ms McAleese said there had been a "genuinely historic transformation" of relations on the island of Ireland, and in relations between Britain and Ireland.

"We are living in an era of profound cooperation between the Governments and peoples of Ireland and of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is set to reveal to us now powers, partnerships and synergies which history denied us," she said.

"Many things still divide us but these are now managed in a mutually respectful, structured environment. The things which unite us now excite us for they are full of good possibilities," she added.

President McAleese, who is to meet the president of the European Court of Human Rights this afternoon, said that Irish people's experience of discrimination meant that the country remained tolerant towards others, despite the changes in our economic position.

"We know enough about being discriminated against in our own land and in every land we emigrated to, to have a special sensitivity to the challenges facing our new citizens. We are determined to be a place that gets right the welcome for the stranger, the openness to a social integration which remains genuinely respectful of and curious about other ethnic and cultural identities," she said.

Commenting on the Ryan report into clerical child abuse, which was published last month, Ms McAleese said that the report had provoked a huge debate in Ireland.

"This questioning, although painful, can only benefit our society in the long run. It has brought us face-to-face with the promise set out in our Proclamation in 1916 to be a republic which cherished the children of the nation equally. We know in searing detail how often that promise was betrayed and we have this opportunity now to do what it takes to make amends to those brutalised by that betrayal and to keep that promise for today’s and tomorrow’s children.

"Our experience is a wake-up call to us and to all those who care for children worldwide to ensure that the highest standards of care and accountability are enforced whether in the home or in institutions," she added.