Ex-Irish president and husband awarded peace prize

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Ex-Irish president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin were jointly awarded the 2011 Tipperary Peace Prize on Sunday for their reconciliation efforts following the conflict in Northern Ireland.

"Her presidency has been a healing one for which this and future generations will be eternally grateful," the Tipperary Peace Convention said, two months after Belfast-born McAleese left office at the end of two seven-year terms.

She and her husband have worked for reconciliation between the Republic of Ireland and pro-British Protestant activists in British-ruled Northern Ireland, which was ravaged by sectarian violence from the 1970s to the 1990s.

McAleese also hosted the historic first visit to Ireland by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in May, a milestone in UK-Irish relations.

In a statement, the Tipperary Peace Convention said the McAleeses were given the honour in recognition of their "promotion of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland and with our neighbouring island".

As well as helping secure the queen's visit, McAleese "also used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion and anti-sectarianism," it said.

Meanwhile her husband, Martin, "initiated a series of meetings with senior loyalist paramilitary leaders to pursue peace negotiations" which it said were "instrumental" in bringing those paramilitary groups to peace talks.

The Tipperary Peace Award was founded in 1984 to recognise people who promote peace in Ireland and abroad.

Previous winners include former South African president Nelson Mandela, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-US president Bill Clinton, and Pakistan's assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

© 2012 AFP

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