|8th President of the Republic of Ireland|
|Term of office|
|Political party||Fianna Fáil|
|Preceded by||Mary Robinson|
|Born|| 21 June 1951 |
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Mary McAleese (born 21 June 1951 in Belfast, Northern Ireland) is the current President of Ireland. She won her first election in 1997 with 58.7% of the vote, succeeding the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. McAleese's succession was the first time in history that a female head of state had been replaced with another woman. When the time came for her first term to end in 2004, McAleese found herself running for re-election uncontested, and was duly re-inauguarated later that year.
McAleese is a qualified lawyer and worked in the state broadcast company RTE in the 1980s. She was nominated to run for the presidency by Fianna Fáil in 1997. During the campaign she was criticized heavily by journalist Eoghan Harris because of her Northern Irish nationalist background. Harris said she would prove to be a "tribal time bomb". She won the election and promised to "build bridges" with Northern Irish Unionists. Her efforts have been credited with helping to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. She is the first person born in Northern Ireland to become President of the Republic.
As President, she has attracted some controversy with a speech she made comparing Protestants in Northern Ireland with Nazis, for which she later apologized. This incident notwithstanding, she remains a popular president to this day. Her second and final term will expire in 2011.