Mary McAleese says she has 'no problem' with same-sex marriage and praised gay rights campaigners.
Former Irish President Mary McAleese says she backs gay marriage, stating that she has 'no problem with it at all'.
McAleese, who served from 1997 to 2011, told RTE's Meaning of Life program, which airs tonight, that she is 'just thrilled anyone wants to get married'.
She added that while she supported traditional marriage and the family, gay people have long been forced to hide their sexuality, suffering 'interminable loneliness'.
McAleese applauded activists who have raised awareness of the persecution of gay people over the centuries and emphasised that they are 'as entitled to live on their terms as heterosexuals are to live on theirs'.
Her comments come just over one week after accusing the Catholic Church of being partly responsible for the growing number of gay men who take their own lives.
She said when the research is broken down, it shows young gay teens are one of the most at-risk groups in Ireland.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio, McAleese said many of these young men will have gone to Catholic schools and they will have heard their church's attitude to homosexuality.
She said: ‘They will have heard words like disorder, they may even have heard the word evil used in relation to homosexual practice.
‘And when they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery that they are gay, when they are 14, 15, or 16, an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up.’
Recently, the Pope has described gay people as a ‘defection of human nature’, and said marriage equality ‘threatens society’.