(b. Belfast, Northern Ireland, 27 June 1951)
Irish; President of the Irish Republic 1997– A member of a Catholic family, born in Northern Ireland, McAleese was affected by loyalist paramilitary violence in the 1970s. She graduated from Queen's University Belfast in 1973 and qualified as a barrister at the Inns of Court of Northern Ireland before becoming a professor at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1976. McAleese worked for Ireland's television company between 1979 and 1981, before resuming her former position at Trinity College. In 1987 she stood unsuccessfully for the Irish Dáil as a Fianna Fáil candidate. McAleese became the Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen's University Belfast in 1987 and in 1994 became the institution's first Catholic Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Fianna Fáil rather surprisingly chose McAleese, rather than former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, as the party's candidate in the 1997 Republic of Ireland presidential election, and she won. McAleese held what many see as conservative views on abortion and divorce, and given that she had been born in the North—the first Northern Irish born President of Ireland—some had thought she would be a divisive figure, but she has worked to build bridges between the North and South. In 2004 she was returned unopposed to the presidency as no other candidate could find sufficient support to challenge her.