Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Mary McAleese to receive praise for Northern Ireland peace role

President Mary McAleese
President of Ireland Mary McAleese

US President Barack Obama will today commend Irish president Mary McAleese on her role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Obama's first stop after his arrival into Dublin Airport on board Air Force One this morning is at Aras an Uachtarain.

The US President will be accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama at the meeting with President McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese, who was appointed as a senator by the Taoiseach at the weekend.

White House deputy assistant to the president, Ben Rhodes, said the meeting would be an important opportunity to discuss bilateral issues with President McAleese.

"And also to honour her extraordinary legacy of serving the people of Ireland and advancing peace in Northern Ireland as well," Mr Rhodes said.

Mr Obama will also plant a tree in the grounds of Aras and Uachtarain with the President.

The US president will travel the short distance to Farmleigh House to meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, where they will discuss a range of bilateral issues. After Farmleigh House, Mr Obama will travel to Moneygall, Co Offaly, where he will visit his ancestral home and meet locals.

"So this is a homecoming of sorts for President Obama. He's very excited to see this small town in Ireland from which he has roots, and we're very much looking forward to seeing some of the people of Moneygall and making a stop there," Mr Rhodes said.

Mr Obama will return to Dublin from Moneygall, where he will address an expected crowd of 25,000 in College Green.

Mr Rhodes said the speech would be very "Irish-focused", rather than focusing on wider international affairs.

"It's also a chance to talk about the enormous affinity, frankly, that the American people have for Ireland that's rooted in part in the huge population of Irish-Americans here.

"And it's a chance for the president to really celebrate the ties between our countries and the kind of unique feelings that the American people have for Ireland."

Mr Obama spends tonight in Dublin and will depart for London tomorrow morning for a state visit and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

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