Dáil tribute to President Mary McAleese by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD on behalf of Sinn Féin
Ar son foireann Sinn Féin san Oireachtas agus sa Tionól sa Tuaisceart ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le Uachtarán na hÉireann, Máire Mhic Giolla Íosa, as an sár-obair atá déanta aici le ceithre bliain déag anuas.
Inniú an lá deireannach in oifig ag an Uachtarán agus is maith an rud go bhfuil an ómós seo a thabhairt againn dí agus dá fear céile Martin.
On behalf of the Sinn Féin Oireachtas members and our party representatives across the island of Ireland I want to express our gratitude to the outgoing President Mary McAleese for her 14 years of service as Uachtarán na hÉireann. Today is her last day in office and it is fitting that we should mark the occasion with some words of thanks here in the Dáil.
Mary McAleese will be remembered as a President who made a very significant, long-term and consistent contribution to the building of lasting peace and true reconciliation in Ireland.
She came to office in 1997 when the Peace Process was at an early and very delicate stage. The Good Friday Agreement was yet to be negotiated.
When that Agreement was reached it was followed by months and, indeed, years of delay and doubt and, at times, despair. Many doubted that it could be made to work. However, through persistence and patience it did work and it has been implemented and huge advances have been made - away from conflict and inequality and towards lasting peace and equality. Society in the Six Counties has been transformed and the whole of Ireland has benefitted.
If the Peace Process could be compared to a tapestry one of the brightest threads running through it would be the role of President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese.
They consistently championed the potential of the new dispensation on this island. They worked in a very special way for reconciliation between the diverse traditions in Ireland. They undoubtedly made a significant contribution to mutual understanding. They helped to make dialogue a reality, encouraging communities in the North to engage as never before.
Because she came from the North, President McAleese brought an understanding and a personal commitment to the work of peace and national reconciliation.
She was a President of the Irish Nation – as defined in Article Two of the Constitution. That Article states:
“It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and territorial seas, to be part of the Irish Nation...”
During the presidential election there were some who lost sight of that article. For them, a permanent mist has descended on a part of our island and of our Nation. There were some who continued to display the type of mindset that, in 1997, called the presidential candidate Mary McAleese a “sectarian time bomb”.
The outgoing President and her husband proved them wrong a thousand times over in a presidency that encompassed all of our island and all of our people.
President McAleese embraced the marginalised and the discriminated against, she learned and used the Irish language while in office and she represented the nation abroad in an exemplary fashion.
As son sinn uile gabhaimíd búiochas léi agus guímíd gach rath ar obair an Uachtaráin nua, Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn.