Watch Mary McAleese speak at Rome conference; Son slams exclusion from Vatican

Justin McAleese, the son of former President Mary McAleese, has said he thinks people will find it hard to stomach that she was "silenced and banned" from speaking at a conference about women in the Vatican.

Speaking on Today with Sean O' Rourke, Justin McAleese said his mother is committed to the Catholic Church, and she is a product of the Catholic education system.

"[The nuns] gave her the tools to become the President of Ireland and a canon lawyer. And to think today she is in Rome not speaking in the Vatican City on a conference about women in the church on International Women's Day. I think of the irony there, I don't think it's lost on people."

President Michael D. Higgins also expressed his support for Mrs McAleese. Speaking on the Ryan Tubridy show on RTE Radio 1 this morning, he said he was "deeply concerned and upset" at the recent exclusions.

"I think that she’s a very very important person in speaking on matters that are her matters and so many people, matters of a spiritual significance but are in terms of the right to believe", he said.

His comments come after Mrs McAleese said the Catholic Church is an "an empire of misogyny".

Mrs McAleese made the comments to reporters in Rome yesterday ahead of a conference calling for women to be included in Church decision-making.

"The Catholic Church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny. It's an empire of misogyny," she said."There are so few leadership roles currently available to women. Women do not have strong role models in the Church that they can look up to."

Mrs McAleese is speaking at the annual 'Voices of Faith' conference on Catholic women's rights in Rome today to mark International Women's Day.

Traditionally, the conference is held in the Vatican but is moving to a different location in Rome this year following remarks from a conservative US cardinal who requested that three gay rights campaigners, including Mrs McAleese, be excluded from the programme.

Mrs McAleese has been a campaigner for same-sex rights for 40 years and said that a Church hierarchy that is "homophobic and anti-abortion is not the Church of the future".

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