Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Just who'll be able to fill Mary McAleese's shoes as Irish president?

I didn't always agree with everything she said or did (her infamous comments comparing unionists to Nazis and her hugging of the golfing wing of the UDA spring immediately to mind).

But I do think Mary McAleese has been an impressive and dignified Irish President. She'll be a hard act to follow.

Especially since the list of candidates thus far doesn't exactly boast a stellar cast.

If the trend is to continue to shy away from those who come with substantial party political baggage (which is the way it should be) it's hard to come up with big names who could fill the lady's shoes.

In fairness Mary herself wasn't a household name either when first elected. But she grew into the job.

Throughout her time in office she looked presidential but also approachable - a difficult trick to pull off when you think about it. And she always looked good - impeccably, beautifully dressed.

During the highly successful and historic visit of the Queen to the Republic she was gracious and friendly and dignified.

Is it possible her friend Her Majesty might one day recognise Mary's considerable contribution to improving relations between Britain and Ireland?

From Mary's side there might be a protocol, a political or a personal reluctance which would stop her accepting an honour from Ireland's nearest neighbour.

But if Sir Bob Geldof is worthy of an honorary knighthood surely a gong could at least be offered to Mrs McAleese?

Dame Mary?

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