Former Irish president Mary McAleese has praised the peacemakers for their victory – after she received a prestigious award in Tipperary.
McAleese and her Senator husband Martin were jointly awarded the Tipperary Peace Prize.
Accepting the award for their work in ‘building bridges’ across the island of Ireland in tune with the theme of her presidency, McAleese thanked those who had brought peace to Ulster.
She said: “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.”
McAleese added: “The starting point for peacemakers 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.”
First elected president in 1997, McAleese said the theme of building bridges became, for both herself and her husband, the ‘outworking’ of that commandment to love one another.
She also recalled how their upbringing in loyalist-dominated east Belfast ensured they were determined, from early in life, to do all they could to make a better future for their communities.
The Irish Times reports that British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott was among a number of dignitaries to see the McAleeses accept their award.
Previous winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, Adi Roche, Bill Clinton, John O’Shea, and Jean Kennedy Smith and her late brother Senator Edward Kennedy.