Irish President Mary McAleese has done much during her 11 years in office to change Irish politics for the better, yet what she did last week had never been done.
McAleese visited the Brakey Orange Hall in County Cavan, about 50 miles north of Dublin. An Irish Catholic leader had never before been invited to the Protestant outpost. (Read the entire speech here.)
The Orange Order of County Cavan is one of the few Protestant outposts left in the Republic of Ireland. The order is fundamentally opposed to anything Catholic. Members are expected to reveal they are not Catholics and are expected to sign documents vowing to leave the organization if they choose to marry one.
The Irish Catholic president, the first born in Northern Ireland and the world's first woman to succeed another female head of state (Mary Robinsion preceded her), has made reconciliation with Protestants a focal point of her administration.
Ten years have past since the historic Good Friday agreement brokered in part by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. The accord, also known as the Belfast Agreement, has significantly quelled sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. McAleese's recent trip to the religious order was just a part of a larger outreach to Irish Protestants.
McAleese will appear at the University of San Francisco Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. to speak in-depth on Ireland's attempt to reconcile social justice on the island. The speech is in conjunction with The Commonwealth Club of California and is free to the public. Click here for more details.
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