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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 08:40 GMT
McAleese marks Scottish first
University of Aberdeen The centre is part of the University of Aberdeen

The world's first academic institute dedicated to Irish and Scottish research has been officially opened by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

The engagement at the centre, which is part of the University of Aberdeen, was part of the president's five-day tour of the UK.

On Monday, she visited Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar in Glasgow. Her trip continues on Wednesday in London, where she is having lunch with the Queen.

Aberdeen has more than 80 academic staff with Irish and Scottish research interests, believed to be the largest concentration of such expertise at any university in Europe.

Language research

The institute is used by graduates for the study and research of the history, language, literature and culture of Scotland and Ireland.

Mary McAleese Mary McAleese: Received degree
About 200 guests, including the Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid and Scotland's senior law officer, the Lord Advocate Lord Hardie, attended the opening ceremony at King's Chapel in Old Aberdeen.

Mrs McAleese gave two short speeches and was conferred with an honorary degree by the university Chancellor Lord Wilson.

The visit to the university marked her first state visit to Scotland since she was elected president of Ireland in 1997.

Closer relations

Speaking in Glasgow on Monday, she said the UK and Ireland stood on the verge of a new era of closer relations.

The British-Irish Council - a key part of the Good Friday Agreement - would help provide a fresh start after the "bitter lessons of the past".

Her visit began as the Northern Ireland Assembly began the work of appointing a devolved executive at Stormont in Belfast.

The power-sharing arrangement replaced the old culture of winners and losers in Northern Ireland, Mrs McAleese added.

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Irish president 'proud of Trimble'
29 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Dewar greets Irish president
29 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Dewar looks for Irish drugs lead

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