McAleese ac­cuses Pope John Paul II of ‘of­fen­sive’ misog­yny in new book

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY PHILIP RYAN

FOR­MER Ir­ish Pres­i­dent Mary McAleese ac­cuses Pope John Paul II of “highly of­fen­sive” misog­yny in a sen­sa­tional new book.

Ms McAleese says she was se­ri­ously of­fended by the pon­tiff pur­posely ig­nor­ing her when they were first in­tro­duced ahead of their much pub­li­cised meet­ing dur­ing her pres­i­dency.

In­stead of greet­ing Ms McAleese, the Pope reached across to her hus­band Martin and said: “Would you not pre­fer to be the Pres­i­dent of Ire­land in­stead of your wife?”

In the book Madam Politi­cian: The Women At The Ta­ble of Ir­ish Po­lit­i­cal Power by RTE po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent Martina Fitzger­ald, Mrs McAleese says “no­body else thought it was funny” and her hus­band was “mor­ti­fied” by the Pope’s com­ment.

“He knew by my face that I didn’t think it was funny. I did say to him: ‘You would never have done that to a male pres­i­dent,’” she adds.

The Pope said he did not have flu­ent English and the com­ment was in­tended to be a joke.

He added: “I heard you had a great sense of hu­mour.”

Af­ter the 1999 meet­ing in the Vat­i­can, the then Pres­i­dent de­scribed the Pope as “in­tel­lec­tu­ally, fe­ro­ciously ag­ile”.

Ms Fitzger­ald in­ter­viewed Mrs McAleese, her pre­de­ces­sor Mary Robin­son and ev­ery fe­male TD who served at cab­i­net for a book that charts the jour­ney of women in Ir­ish pol­i­tics.

It also doc­u­ments how for­mer Taoiseach Char­lie Haughey pulled the bra strap of ex-Fine Gael min­is­ter Gemma Hussey dur­ing a Dail de­bate on rape.

Mr Haughey ap­proached Ms Hussey from be­hind while she was ob­serv­ing the de­bate on a Pri­vate Mem­ber’s Bill she had spon­sored.

He pulled at her bra strap and ges­tured her to sit down.

“I was sit­ting there ob­serv­ing a de­bate when I felt a chuck on my bra strap at the back. I got a shock and leapt to my feet,” Ms Hussey says in the book.

Mr Haughey told Ms Hussey he would “look af­ter” her Bill and said he had an “ex­cel­lent min­is­ter” work­ing on the leg­is­la­tion.

“I was dumb­founded. I was just amazed. I was kind of ren­dered speech­less re­ally,” the for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter said.

Mary McAleese holds Pope John Paul II’s hand dur­ing a meet­ing in 2003

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