President Mary McAleese has said it is her fervent prayer that the Christmas message of peace may prompt the trust and faith required to complete reconciliation at this crucial time in the Northern peace process.

The president made her comments in her Christmas greeting.

Acknowledging the country's large debt to those who continue to build peace on the island, she praised them for transforming hearts and minds.

She said the ancient and central message of Christmas is one of peace and goodwill to all humankind.

She added that reflecting deeply on that message at this crucial time in the Peace Process, we in Ireland may find the trust and the faith to complete this journey of healing and reconciliation.

Mrs McAleese said the simple essence of this great feast is to be good to one another, and to fill the world with generosity instead of greed.

Underlining what she called the legendary capacity of the Irish for generosity, she urged each of us to honour that tradition this Christmastide and make it a time of lasting peace and goodwill, a beacon of hope in a very unequal world.

Appealing to what she called our 'innate decency', she urged a renewal of social commitment, especially to those who are struggling and in need of help.