03 September 2014

Mary McAleeseThe University of South Australia will award former President of Ireland, Professor of Criminal Law and advocate for peace in Ireland, Mary McAleese, an Honorary Doctorate this evening, following her delivery of the University’s Nelson Mandela Lecture, focussed on the process of peacemaking.

McAleese became President of Ireland in 1997 at a time when the journey to peace, following hundreds of years of sectarian violence, was at a critical point.

Five months after her inauguration, on April 10, 1998 the signing of the The Good Friday Agreement became the first vital step yet towards achieving peace in Northern Ireland and led to a power sharing government in Belfast and a greater stability and prosperity for those living in Northern Ireland as well as residents of the border region.

UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor David Lloyd says honouring Mary McAleese is acknowledgement that it is the commitment of leaders to long and often difficult or confronting negotiations, which drives the path to peace and keeps nations on that path.

“Fully aware that the agreement for peace was only a first step, Mary made the idea of building bridges a touchstone of her Presidency,” Prof Lloyd says.

“She reached out to people and looked for common ground – to new immigrants to Ireland, to the survivors of institutionalised child abuse and to the many people on both sides of the troubles who had been damaged by tragedy and violence.

“Her leadership has been dedicated to reconciliation, justice, social equality and inclusion, and anti-sectarianism.

“These are values we share as an institution and we are proud to welcome her to the UniSA community.”

Growing up in North Belfast, McAleese has lived experience of ‘The Troubles’

She says those experiences fostered a desire to understand conflict and to work towards resolution rather than retribution.

She earned a law degree from Queen’s University in Belfast and had a successful career as a barrister before being appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College in Dublin. 

While in Dublin she moved into journalism and broadcasting in the current affairs department at Raidió Teilifís Éireann, working for programs such as Frontline and the ground-breaking Today Tonight.

In 1981, Ms McAleese returned to Trinity College and was appointed registrar of the School of Law. She continued to work part-time for RTÉ over a number of years, contributing on a diverse range of issues such as politics, religion and the arts.

She returned to Belfast and to Queen’s University in 1987, when she became the Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. Her talent in this prestigious role was recognised and she received numerous invitations to travel to various parts of the world as guest lecturer.

Her leadership skills were rewarded in 1994 when she became the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen’s, the first woman and only the second Catholic to hold the position.

Three years later she was resoundingly endorsed as President of Ireland.

McAleese is a committed Catholic but as a student of canon law she has challenged the Church in Ireland, the United States and in Rome where she is pursuing her doctorate in canon law. 

She served as President of Ireland from 1997 until 2011and made history as the first Northern Irish native to be elected president.

McAleese will deliver the fifth Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture on Wednesday September 3 at the Adelaide Town Hall, this time presented in interview format and hosted by political journalist Annabel Crabb on the topic, Making partners of enemies: the Irish peace process.

She will be awarded the Honorary Doctorate at the conclusion of the lecture at around 7pm.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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