Chancellor's Biography

Chancellor, Dr. Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese was born in Belfast and grew up, the eldest of nine children, in Ardoyne the area worst affected by sectarian violence during the Troubles. Her family was seriously impacted by paramilitary attacks which cemented her lifelong commitment to non-violence, anti-sectarianism, interreligious dialogue, reconciliation and human rights.

Mary graduated in Law from the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1973 and was called to the Bar of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland and the King's Inns Dublin. In 1975, she was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin. She trained as a current affairs journalist with RTE. In 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queens, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen’s University of Belfast. Mary was a founder member of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas, and Belfast Women’s Aid. She has served on the Board of Channel Four Television, BBC Northern Ireland, the Royal Group of Hospitals Trust and Northern Ireland Electricity.

In 1997 Mary became the first President of Ireland from Northern Ireland. She served in that office from 1997 to 2011 pursuing a theme of reconciliation through Building Bridges which culminated in the 2011 State Visit to Ireland by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the first such visit by a British monarch since independence.

Post-Presidency Mary returned to full-time study graduating with a Licentiate and Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University Rome. In 2018 she was appointed Professor of Children, Law & Religion at University of Glasgow. She is Chair of the Von Hugel Institute, University of Cambridge, former Burns Scholar at Boston College (2013), Keogh-Naughton Fellow, University of Notre Dame (2015) and Distinguished Scholar at St. Mary’s University Twickenham (2016). Mary is the author of Reconciled Being (1997), Building Bridges (2011), Quo Vadis (2013), and Children’s Rights and Obligations in Canon Law (2019). She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates and national and international prizes including the University of Tubingen’s Alfons Auer Ethics Prize (2019) and Unanima International Woman of Courage Award (2019).

Mary is married to TCD dentistry graduate Dr. Martin McAleese. They have three children, Dr. Emma McAleese (UCD and TCD) married to TCD law graduate Micheál O’Connell SC, Justin McAleese (UCD) married to TCD graduate Dr. Fionán Donoghue and Dr. Sara McAleese (Oxon and RCSI).