Mary and Martin McAleese awarded peace prize for 'building bridges'


THE PEACEMAKERS are winning in Ireland, former president Mary McAleese said yesterday when she and her husband, Senator Martin McAleese, were jointly awarded the Tipperary Peace Prize.

Each day brings new evidence of “lowering of the walls of vanities”, of new hope and of a plant of reconciliation that has the chance to become the future, she said.

Dr and Mrs McAleese were presented with the prize in Tipperary for their work in “building bridges” across the island and across the Irish Sea, in tune with the theme of her presidency.

The McAleeses recalled their upbringing in loyalist-dominated east Belfast and said they were determined, from early in life, to do all they could to make a better future for their communities.

Among those present in the Ballykisteen Hotel and Golf Resort where the McAleeses received their prize were the British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott; Minister of State Alan Kelly; former Green Party minister Eamon Ryan; Alice Leahy of the Trust organisation; Archbishop Dermot Clifford and Fr Brian D’Arcy.

The starting point for peacemakers, Mrs McAleese said, was the recognition that there was a fundamental desire for peace in all people and that we were capable of change.

“I, like many people, have that desire. It was driven by the urgency of ending the violence, it was something that Martin and I shared from the first day we met. It was a violence that consumed our homes, our parishes, our country like wildfire. We also had something else in common – we had a conviction, a very strong conviction based on our Christian faith that we were commanded, at its very simplest, to love one another.”

The theme of building bridges, chosen when Mrs McAleese became president in 1997 became, for both of them, the “outworking” of that commandment to love one another, she said.

The McAleeses join a list of winners of the Tipperary Peace Prize which includes Mikhail Gorbachev, Adi Roche, Bill Clinton, John O’Shea, and Jean Kennedy Smith and her late brother Senator Edward Kennedy.