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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Second term for Irish President

Mary McAleese is to serve as president for a second term

Irish President Mary McAleese is to serve a second seven-year term.

The Belfast woman's appointment was announced on Friday. She was returned unopposed.

The Irish presidential race turned into the one-horse variety when Mrs McAleese's potential rival, the former MEP and Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon, failed to get the support of either four councils or the signatures of 20 Tds and senators.

Mrs McAleese, 53, said on Friday that she was delighted.

She said she would continue with a policy of bridge building and that it was wonderful to watch the peace process grow.

Under the Republic of Ireland's constitution, a sitting president can nominate herself.

Elected in 1997 as the eighth president of Ireland, the Queen's University graduate has an approval rating of more than 80%.

When she announced her decision to run again in September, she said: "These past seven years have been personally deeply fulfilling and, after consultation with my family, I have decided to seek election for a second term.

"It is my desire and ambition to serve my country and serve it well for a further term as president."

The Northern Ireland woman had the support of both Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats when she first ran for office.

Unionist welcome

Unionists in Northern Ireland said they would like to see Irish President Mary McAleese continuing her outreach work to their community now she will embark on a second term.

Progressive Unionist leader David Ervine welcomed confirmation that the Belfast-born Irish President will return to the presidency unopposed for another seven years.

"I think given the journey that society in Northern Ireland has been on, she has been a safe pair of hands and I would like to congratulate her on securing a second term," Mr Ervine said.

"I would not overestimate the contact she has had with a section of loyalism but I think in terms of the outreach work she has done with the unionist community she has done a good job."

In February, President McAleese and her husband Martin enjoyed a successful return visit to loyalist areas of Belfast and to parts of North Down.

She visited schools and a kickboxing club which caters for both communities in the heart of east Belfast.

The president also attended a prayer service at a Presbyterian Church in Holywood and met pensioners in a loyalist area in Bangor.

In June during another visit to her home city, she visited the Chinese community and condemned the rise in racial violence in Northern Ireland.

BBC NI's Shane Harrison reports
"The President hopes to continue the bridge-building theme in her second term"

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