PRESIDENT EMBRACES UDA LEADER
Irish President Mary McAleese provoked controversy yesterday by
publicly hugging a unionist paramilitary leader, despite being
forced to cancel a visit to the Shankill in Belfast under the
threat of violence.
Children from a school in the UDA-controlled Shankill in west
Belfast met the President at a hotel in the south of the city
yesterday morning, after she was forced to cancel a planned
visit to the area.
However, President McAleese was able to visit a primary school
in south Belfast. Controversially, she was seen to hug the
so-called UDA 'brigadier' for the area, Jackie McDonald.
President McAleese and her husband Martin are known to share a
close personal relationship with McDonald, the leader of a
sectarian murder gang. The relationship evolved from the
President's efforts to 'reach out' to unionists.
In the past McDonald, who has been convicted for extortion, has
enjoyed a round of golf with the president's husband Martin in
the exclusive K Club in County Kildare. The UDA man also
attended President McAleese's inauguration in Dublin last
McDonald described the Belfast woman as "an ambassador".
"Herself and Martin have worked wonders and have opened doors
for people like myself who can go and show what sort of people
we are and what we are not.
"Mary invited us down to the Aras on her birthday at the end of
June. A lot of people from the estate and from the school came
down and could see what type of person she really is and her
personality is a great thing."
He said children from Taughmonagh Primary School had been
excited and parents were "delighted" at the visit.
However, victims of loyalist violence have expressed anger and
dismay at images of the Presidential embracing the paramilitary
Kathleen McCaughey, who was forced to abandon her home in
Ahoghill this summer, said she was disappointed she and other
victims of sectarian attacks had been ignored by the
"Some local politicians have visited me but no one from the
Irish government or the President. Seeing her meet this man
made me angry and I'm sure a lot of people looking on at this
will share my anger."