By Sean Ryan - 24 January, 2016
Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has joined the staff of St Mary’s University, Twickenham as Distinguished Professor in Irish Studies.
Mrs McAleese, who has been completing a doctorate in Canon Law, will teach on the MA Irish Studies programme at Britain’s oldest Catholic College and specifically its ‘New Perspectives on Irish History’ seminar series.
She will take part in a programme of public conversations during her period of appointment and will give two public lectures at the University’s Centre for Law and Culture.
She also will carry out research and her teaching will draw on her experience and insights from two terms as Ireland’s Head of State and more than thirty years’ experience in Irish public life.
In September 2015, Professor McAleese delivered a keynote conversation for the British Association of Irish Studies’ annual conference at the University’s Strawberry Hill campus.
The theme of the conference was ‘Ireland: Agents of Social Transformation’, and Professor McAleese was interviewed by Professor Mary Hickman, Research Fellow at St Mary’s.
During the interview, Mary McAleese discussed her time as president alongside some of the changes she has seen in Ireland over the last thirty years.
As part of the discussion, she covered many topics from the current refugee crisis and her own experiences of being “a refugee on [her] own island”, to the current challenges and opportunities facing Ireland today.
Born in Belfast, Mary McAleese is the first president of Ireland to have come from Northern Ireland.
The theme of her presidency was ‘Building Bridges’ to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation.
Dr McAleese played a major role in the Northern Irish peace process and she hosted Queen Elizabeth in the highly successful British state visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011.
Speaking at the time of her appointment to the new role at St Mary’s, Mrs McAleese said, “I am delighted to join St Mary’s at an exciting time in its growth and development and look forward to meeting both students and staff.”
“I particularly look forward to working closely with the excellent team at its Centre for Irish Studies as it researches the continuing development of Anglo-Irish relations. St Mary’s, which has been a focus of Irish life in Britain for 165 years, has an important role to play in this work as we look to the next 100 years of close relations between our two countries.”
The new role is Mary McAleese’s second major appointment in the UK in as many years.
In March 2014 she was appointed patron of a Catholic institute of theology in Britain where she took up the role with the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge.