President in tribute to those who built peace
PRESIDENT Mary McAleese joined the ranks of Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama yesterday as she opened the Rimini Meeting in the Italian resort.
Delivering the opening address at the multicultural and multi-denominational festival, she paid tribute to the Irish former paramilitaries who helped to bring about peace.
Speaking on this year's theme of 'The forces which change history are those which change the hearts of men', the President said she was personally inspired by the actions of ordinary people working for peace on both sides of the Border.
Despite coming from "marginalised communities which suffered most during the violence and which feel a deep sense of exclusion and victimhood", she said the same people who took up arms during the Troubles were now to be commended for working "to ensure that their people feel the full benefit of peace".
She continued: "History books will rightly record the names of great leaders who helped promote change, but for me the most inspiring common thread is the power of ordinary people to effect change through their daily lives, through what they say and do."
The Rimini Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples in Italy has been held each year since 1980 to celebrate cultural and religious diversity.
Other speakers at the event included the EU president, Jose Manuel Barroso.