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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018

McAleese honoured with bridge in her name

The former president’s work for peace was honoured with the naming of Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge.

Mary and Martin McAleese with their children Justin, Emma and SaraMai.
Mary and Martin McAleese with their children Justin, Emma and SaraMai.
Image: Ken Finegan

THE PEACE WORK of former Irish President Mary McAleese has been honoured today with the naming of the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge.

The cable-stay bridge on the M1 Belfast-Dublin motorway near Drogheda has been named after McAleese, who was president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011 and who advocated for peace during her time in office.

Meath County Council and Louth County Council decided to name the bridge in recognition of the work done by Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese.

A ceremony took place in Oldbridge Estate, Co Meath, site of the historic Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. Mrs McAleese said:

On the banks of the Boyne in this exquisitely beautiful valley, a battle was fought over 300 years ago that changed the course of Ireland’s history. It made enemies of the children of the Jacobites and Williamites for generations. We lived side by side in conflict and fear rather than in peace and solidarity.
But now, a new generation gathers on its banks. We are the descendants of Williamite and Jacobite. We are Protestant and Catholic, nationalist and unionist, loyalist and republican and none of the above. We have become bridge builders and, because we have, we meet today as good neighbours and collaborators on the journey to peace.

She said there is “something wonderful and poignant about our meeting here alongside this elegant bridge that takes us so easily on our journeys north and south”.

The event featured a performance by uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn of An Droichead/The Bridge, a musical composition commissioned by McAleese for her inauguration in 1997.

Building bridges

In his speech, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that through her two terms at Áras an Uachtaráin Mrs McAleese “built so many bridges between hearts, minds, imaginations”.

So it is fitting that, today, we gift her the real thing. Given her latest studies in canon law, it will not be lost on her that she was indeed a Pontifex – a woman who made bridges.

He spoke about the Battle of the Boyne, describing it as a “Game of Thrones, involving temporal and spiritual power”.

“The work Mary McAleese and Martin McAleese did for people – on both sides – changed minds, attitudes and lives across the island and across the communities,” said the Taoiseach.

In her Presidency, for those of the Unionist community, Dublin became not an alien city to be feared and avoided, but a place of real and warm welcome particularly Áras an Uachtaráin itself.

Read: Martin McAleese to resign from Seanad next week>

Read: Mary McAleese: ‘I’d love to say I saw the bust coming… but I didn’t’>

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