By Patrick Markey
Irish President Mary McAleese flew into New York City last week to accept an award for Ireland’s progress in helping the country’s disabled population.
Starting a four-day tour at the United Nations Plaza on Wednesday, president McAleese joined by paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to receive the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award.
Accepting the award, which includes a grant and a bust of President Roosevelt, McAleese said though progress has been made in ensuring equality, there is a need to maintain the progress of legislation geared toward the disabled.
McAleese said growing up as one in a family of nine children, one of whom, a brother, was profoundly deaf, had given her a sense of the isolation experienced by the disabled.
The award is presented to countries that have made significant progress toward the United Nations aim of allowing people with disabilities to participate equally in society. Ireland was honored for the government’s attempts to address disability issues and legislation for equal employment. Minister of State Mary Wallace, who has special responsibilities for equality and disabilities with the Justice Department, was also at the event.
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The award’s $50,000 grant will go to the Special Olympics Ireland organization. The games will be held in Dublin in the summer of 2003, the first time the event has been taken outside the United States.
During her visit, McAleese also appeared as the guest of honor at the American Ireland Fund and met with academics, media and UN officials at a roundtable breakfast discussion on the Good Friday agreement at the International Peace Academy.