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I don't have a problem with gay marriage

FORMER President Mary McAleese says she has "no problem at all" with gay marriage.

On a programme to be broadcast tonight, Ms McAleese reaffirms her strong support for marriage and the family but adds that for too long gay people have had to live secretively.

She has a very strong view that for centuries "gay people have lived in a dark secretive world of indeterminate loneliness, dreadful complexity".

Her belief is that gay people are as "entitled to live their lives on their own terms, as I do as a heterosexual. I'm just thrilled anyone wants to get married," she added.

Ms McAleese has also described "a most dreadful encounter" with the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law, who accused her, in front of government ministers, officials and ambassadors, of being "a very poor Catholic president".

She replied: "I am not a Catholic president, I'm president of Ireland".

The former president was speaking in a interview with Gay Byrne which will be broadcast on RTE One at 10.15pm.

She reveals her family were hit by the property bubble bursting because they built their Roscommon home "in the centre of the Celtic Tiger, paying acres of money for acres of land".

"Our children bought their homes at the height of the boom," she said.

"I would love to be able to say I had some gift of prophecy that allowed me to see the bust coming, but I didn't."

In the wide-ranging interview for Gay Byrne's Meaning Of Life series, Ms McAleese says she has been in Rome studying Canon Law since the end of her presidency and "I see my life writing in that field".

Her book, Quo Vadis, to be published on October 20, has questioned what she terms "a creeping infallibility about everything" in the Church.

She says she wrote to Pope John Paul wondering -- with her views on issues like women priests -- whether she was really a member of the church anymore.

A reply sent on his behalf was "a lovely letter" assuring her she was still a member of the Church, but asking her to try her best to accept what the Church was teaching.