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President Mary McAleese pledged to help spread Ulster Scots message in Ireland

Then-Irish president Mary McAleese listens to a piper play in the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain (PA)
Then-Irish president Mary McAleese listens to a piper play in the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain (PA)

Former Irish president Mary McAleese pledged to do whatever she could to secure more recognition of Ulster Scots culture in the Republic of Ireland, archives show.

The commitment from Mrs McAleese was made to members of the Ulster Scots Agency at a reception at her official residence in Dublin, Aras an Uachtarain, in 2001, according to an account of the exchange.

The account of the November 11 reception is contained within the chief executive’s report presented to a board meeting of the agency.

The minutes of the agency’s board meetings in 2001 are included in newly released archives from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Funeral mass for peacemaker priest
Former Irish president Mary McAleese with her husband Martin (PA)

The Ulster Scots Agency was one of several cross-border bodies that were established under the Good Friday Agreement.

Its Irish language equivalent body is Foras na Gaeilge.

Acting chief executive of the agency Stan Mallon and fellow board members were invited to a reception at Aras organised for all the cross-border bodies created by the agreement.

Mr Mallon recounted a conversation with President McAleese.

“I took the opportunity to raise with the President the dilemma the Agency faces in seeking proper recognition of the validity and value of the Ulster Scots culture in the Republic,” he wrote.

“I told her I believed that much could be done there to remedy this, especially through the medium of education. I said the Agency would greatly welcome the opportunity to meet with key decision-makers in education in the Republic to seek their advice and guidance as to the most effective and appropriate way of implementing the Agency’s education strategy in relation to the Republic. I said that I thought that the imprimatur of the President’s office behind such a meeting would be most beneficial.

“She listened carefully to what I had to say and said she would do whatever she could to help.”

Mr Mallon went on to say that later at the reception he had a “much more personable and longer discussion” on the topic with the president’s husband Martin McAleese.

“He is a personal friend of the head of the Department of Education in the Republic and said that he (sic) if I dropped him a line he would ensure that arrangements for such a meeting would be put in train.

“I sent the necessary letter to Dr McAleese and he phoned me the next day to acknowledge receipt and to say that I could expect a call from the Department in the near future.”