President Mary McAleese, on her last day in office, has stated that the success against all the odds of the peace process was the highlight of her 14 years in office while the economic downturn presented her greatest challenge.
Writing in The Irish Times McAleese stated that in “ The success against all the odds of the efforts made by peacemakers of all persuasions, including those who once saw violence as an option, we can see the phenomenal human capacity for change and for improving the human condition.”
She called the visit of Queen Elizabeth “Happy and healing”
“We were particularly heartened by the people who came as tentative and distrustful strangers but who gradually grew more comfortable. Their willingness to engage allowed us to believe that a future of good-neighbourliness and partnership was possible. The happy and healing visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II showcased the extent of the mutual desire for a new and healthier relationship between our countries and how far we have travelled in creating it.”
She said there had been dramatic changes since she took over in 1997 as president.
“Back in 1997 both peace and prosperity were elusive ambitions. Today the once fraught relationships on this island and between Ireland and Great Britain have been transformed so that we have a stable peace for the first time in centuries.
These things are indicative of the strengths we have as a people and of the collective power that is already sowing the seeds of improved times beyond these days of high unemployment, dropping incomes, worrying debt levels and the return of emigration.
She said she would be forever grateful for the welcome she and her husband Martin received from every corner of Ireland.
“I will be ever grateful to all those communities, schools, colleges, organisations and individuals who invited Martin and me into their lives and introduced us to their remarkable and extensive work, which enhances civic life immeasurably.
Those invitations brought us to every part of this island, North and South, and to many parts of the world where our global Irish family nurture such a deep loyalty to Irish identity and culture.
We made friendships across all sorts of ancient estrangements and differences of politics, ethnicity, faith and perspective. We shook thousands of hands at Áras an Uachtaráin and relished the pleasure that a visit to that house brought to so many people.
McAleese is expected to drop out of public ilife and take a PHD in canon law in Rome in the immediate future. Her husband is a senator in the Irish parliament.
Footage of Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth II visiting the Garden of Remembrance together: