Meet Her Excellency Mary McAleese, the eight and current President of Ireland. Read her biography and see photos and a video of her below.

Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese, recently honored the Irish dead in foreign wars and in the service of the United Nations. She participated in the National Day of Commemoration ceremony at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland.

Mary McAleese Biography

Mary Patricia Leneghan was born on June 27, 1951 in Ardoyne, Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is 57-years-old. In Irish, her name is Máire Pádraigín Ní Lionnacháin. She grew up Catholic in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood. Because of this, she had a front row seat to observe the violence of the on-going hostilities between the Orangemen and the Catholics that has divided Ireland for hundreds of years. In fact, her family was forced to leave the area due to the violence between Protestants and Catholics there. Those conflicts were known as ‘The Troubles’. She is the oldest of nine children.

As a young child, the ambitious girl was told by her Priest that she couldn’t be a lawyer because she was a girl. Her mother was so enraged by this that she threw the Priest out of her home and told little Mary to ignore what he had said. [anecdotal information].

She received her education at St. Dominic’s High School and Queen’s University in Belfast and Trinity College in Dublin. She was admitted to the Bar of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 1974 following her graduation. She started her career as a Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College in 1975. Interestingly, she succeeded Mary Robinson in that position, just as she did years later as Ireland’s President.

In 1979 she became a journalist and presenter. She returned to academic world in her previous position in 1981 while continuing her work in journalism.

On November 11, 1997, Mary McAleese became the eight president of Ireland and the second female president of Ireland. She succeed Mary Robinson as President which was the first time in history that a woman succeeded another woman as head of state anywhere in the world. She is a member of the Fianna Fáil party. The name roughly translates into English as Soldiers of Destiny or Soldiers of Ireland. It is the largest political party in Ireland and is a centralist party. She was reelected for a second seven year term in 2004. She is currently the longest serving female head of state in the world.

She is credited with making significant inroads to reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. She has received criticism from Catholics for embracing and worshiping with Protestants even though she is Catholic. She has also received criticism for her acknowledged admiration of Queen Elizabeth II of England. However, her inclusiveness and acceptance of both religions as well as her acceptance of the English has helped to unify the nation as opposed to her being the divisive figure her critics has expected her to be.

In 2007 she was number 58 on the Forbes list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. In 2006, she was number 55 on the Forbes list.

In 1976 she married dentist Martin McAleese. They have three children, Emma, and twins Saramai and Justin.

Mary McAleese Quotes

We are a vibrant first-world country, but we have a humbling third-world memory.
~ Mary McAleese

Whatever changes the new era brings, whatever new pathways we take, I am sure that our special relationship with America – forged in adversity, will not change.
~ Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese – Video
Her Excellency Mary McAleese speaks to the people of Ireland in Gaelic for her 2008 St. Patrick’s Day message.

Uachtarán na hÉireann A Shoilse Máire Mhic Giolla ?osa ag caint le achan duine ar oileán na hÉireann, 2008.