She was marginalized and repudiated by her fellow workers (some of whom have since recanted and apologized to her as President). When, later on, she acted as spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops, she was the subject of venomous attacks which resulted in her life being threatened by unionist extremists.
Nevertheless, by sheer force of personality, McAleese emerged as a thoughtful and courageous voice, unafraid to speak up about her origins, her faith or her sense of an Ireland ungoverned by ideological prescriptions. A keen student of philosophy, history and politics, her public interventions were characterized most of all by her engagingly conversational style, by which she succeeded in saying quite complex, and sometimes quite rigorous things without conveying any sense of intellectual detachment.
In addition to all this, she was a clear-minded and unapologetic Catholic who took her faith seriously and saw no reason to compartmentalize it outside or alongside her public persona. Her work with the Catholic bishops had mainly been in the context of a forum established to address the matter of the continuing conflict that had blighted her home place for many years. She was, naturally, dismissed by opponents as “conservative” and “traditionalist”, but when the arguments started she left them all for dead.
Friday, August 20, 2010