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Last Updated:  Sunday, 2 March, 2003, 13:28 GMT
President pleads for peace-making
President said it was important to focus on the north-south axis
President said it was important to focus on the north-south axis
Irish President Mary McAleese has pleaded with people to build personal friendships as a vital part of peace-making in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Sequence programme, President McAleese said the failure to understand each other's history had damaged friendships across the religious divide.

She said those who had crossed the divide in the past had been left vulnerable.

However, she said there would be no peace process without that work.

"We wouldn't be sustaining the peace process without it," she said.

"People are putting their hearts and their souls in and taking risks all the time to try and unleash into the community the 'yes-ness' that emerged in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

We wasted a lot of opportunities for friendship and we really threw back in God's face an awful lot of the opportunities that he gave us
Irish President Mary McAleese

"I just know how much work is being done and has been done."

The president said it was important to focus on the north-south axis.

"It is a difficult one - it is one we have committed to here with a heart and a half. I believe that is the future - a new kind of vision for the relationship between north and south based on partnership and respect.

"We wasted a lot of opportunities for friendship and we really threw back in God's face an awful lot of the opportunities that he gave us.

"Now we are a very privileged generation. I think there is a sufficient critical mass who have now committed to the hard and difficult road of peace-building."

'Immense hurt'

She said the many people and community groups from the Protestant community who had visited her official residence in Dublin were "a blessing and a gift".

"Out of that friendship, is the capacity and the space for peace-building and partnership," she added.
Omagh bomb
President said Omagh relatives had continued through immense pain

During the interview, Mrs McAleese spoke about her anger, sorrow and despair on hearing about the Omagh bombing and the terrorist attacks on the United States.

She said it was admirable how the victims' relatives continued with their lives while carrying immense hurt and pain.

"Their resilience and their courage gives you great hope," she said.

Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the Irish head of state in 1997.

The eighth president of Ireland, Mrs McAleese is a trained barrister and former professor of law.

She is also the first president to come from Northern Ireland.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Irish President Mary McAleese:
"People are putting their hearts and their souls in and taking risks all the time"



SEE ALSO:
Bristol honours Irish president
04 Dec 02 |  England
Irish president opens travellers' centre
07 Dec 01 |  Northern Ireland
President presents Belfast 'Oscars'
10 Nov 00 |  Northern Ireland
McAleese marks Scottish first
01 Dec 99 |  Scotland



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