A new business school in Belfast will help generate peace with prosperity in Northern Ireland, Mary McAleese has said.
The former Irish president returned to her alma mater at Queen's University Belfast to open Riddel Hall in Stranmillis.
The building has been refurbished to provide cutting edge facilities for the economic development of companies in Northern Ireland, including rooms where students can practise trading and learn management skills.
The University also launched a campaign to raise £140 million for more improvements, with £17.5 million already pledged.
Mrs McAleese said: "This will become the backdrop for peace with prosperity. We want people here to flourish, we don't want people mired in debt, mired in unemployment, mired with lack of opportunity."
Professor McAleese studied at Queens and went on to teach law there. She served as Irish president from 1997 to 2011.
Since she left the presidency she has been mostly in Rome studying canon law and on Friday reflected on attitudes towards women in 1915 when Riddel Hall was opened as a residence for female students of Queen's. She said there was a less accommodating approach to women in education then.
Belfast-born Mrs McAleese said the centre had been transformed. "It is a seed bed of a new future, it has become a statement of confidence, it has become an engine that will generate creativity and confidence rather like it was when the building was first conceived," she added.
Riddel Hall was endowed to the University by Belfast sisters Eliza and Isabella Riddel.
Queen's vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: "It is that same spirit of philanthropy that has enabled Queen's to redevelop Riddel Hall into a new Northern Ireland portal for business."