Doctor of Civil Law
Saint Mary's honoured its Irish heritage when it granted an honourary degree to the President of Ireland. An Honourary Doctorate of Civil Law was awarded to President Mary McAleese during a special convocation ceremony at the University.
"I can only thank Saint Mary's for granting me with a Doctorate in Civil Law," she said during the ceremony on October 9.
In her address to the large audience that day, she indicated that her country is presently enjoying phenomenal economic success. She pointed out that providing more people with an education in Ireland is a reason for such significant growth.
She also indicated that while the country is enjoying a booming economy, it's also working to secure peace. "We now stand on the threshold of a very important era in Ireland, a golden era, one of economic prosperity as we have never known it. The historic Good Friday Agreement however gives us cause to believe that the circle of conflict will soon be closed. We have learned how to close that circle, and sustain peace from the experience here in Canada. As we attempt to end a culture of conflict, put it behind us and to build a culture of consensus, we naturally look to Canada as a place to which many of our people have come."
Dr. Kenneth L. Ozmon, O.C., President of Saint Mary's, said that President McAleese is committed to building bridges between the north and the south in Ireland, and it is these qualities of leadership, vision and commitment that she represents, which are the foundation of the University.
"A distinguished academic, champion of the rights of people with disabilities, builder of bridges, person of great faith. A person, par excellence to joining Saint Mary's roll of distinguished honourary graduates," he said.
Dr. Cyril Byrne, Professor of Irish Studies, told the audience that granting an honourary degree to President McAleese marked a significant occasion for the University. "It is especially significant for this University, founded by the Irish almost 200 years ago, that the President of Ireland is now amongst us," he said, adding that Atlantic Canada is the most authentically Irish region in Canada.
After graduating from Queen's University Belfast, President McAleese was called to the Northern Ireland Bar and practiced primarily in criminal and family law. In 1975 she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin, a position she held until 1979. She worked for two years as a television reporter before returning to teaching at Trinity.
In 1987, President McAleese was appointed Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies which trains barristers and solicitors for the legal profession in Northern Ireland. In 1994, she was appointed a Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast. On November 11, 1997, she was inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland. She succeeds Mary Robinson, who was the Republic's first woman president.
In a book titled Who's Who in Ireland: The Influential 1,000, President McAleese was described as a "highly articulate, intelligent woman" and a "down to earth, approachable academic." It is for these reasons, and many others, that Saint Mary's awarded President McAleese with such a high honour.