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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Irish president makes city visit
Irish President Mary McAleese
Irish President Mary McAleese met Hugh Orde
Irish President Mary McAleese has pressed ahead with her visit to Belfast, despite having to rearrange her itinerary due to recent rioting.

The current security situation has been blamed for the postponement of a visit by Mrs McAleese to the Shankill area.

Her planned visit to Edenbrooke Primary School was rearranged to meeting staff and pupils at a hotel.

However, she went ahead with her other engagements including a courtesy call on Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.

Sir Hugh defended Mrs McAleese's visit, saying he had met the Irish and US presidents before and looked forward to speaking to her.

The pair discussed Northern Ireland's win over England, with Mrs McAleese describing David Healy's winning effort as a "good, clever goal".

'Friendships'

At the hotel reception, President McAleese told Edenbrooke pupils that their parents and teachers "wanted to make Northern Ireland a wondrous, harmonious place" for them to grow up in.

"I think one of the great sadnesses is that we can... almost live next door to one another, and yet we do not get the chance for the kind of friendships that would make our lives really, really glow," she said.

Following the reception Baroness May Blood said that people on the Shankill Road had been "delighted to put forward their best face at the event".

"The Shankill gets very bad press and this will go out around the world that there are ordinary good people on the Shankill," she said.

"It's just a pity she wasn't able to come to our area but we will try to work something around that."

Criticised

During a visit to a school on the Taughmonagh estate in south Belfast, Mrs McAleese was warmly welcomed by prominent loyalist Jackie McDonald.

Mr McDonald said he was "glad that President McAleese had come to visit the areas as she wanted to help".

Speaking earlier in the week, Ian Paisley Jr criticised Thursday's meeting between the chief constable and Mrs McAleese, which was not raised with the Policing Board.

He described it as "highly political".

But fellow Policing Board member, Alex Attwood of the SDLP, said Mrs McAleese has done more than virtually any other citizen to try to build bridges on the island of Ireland."

Inaugurated as the Irish head of state in 1997, Mary McAleese is the first president to come from Northern Ireland and is now in her second term of office.

She has made more than 60 official visits to the province during that time.


SEE ALSO:
McAleese cancels Shankill visit
07 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland
McAleese is 'welcome on Shankill'
24 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
McAleese 'sorry' over Nazi remark
29 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Second term for Irish President
01 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland


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