Mary Robinson

former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (born 21 May 1944) is an Irish independent politician who served as the seventh President of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997, becoming the first woman to hold this office. She also served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and a Senator for the University of Dublin from 1969 to 1989. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister and campaigner. She defeated the Fianna Fáil party's Brian Lenihan and the Fine Gael party's Austin Currie in the 1990 presidential election, becoming the first Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers' Party| and Independent Senators. She was the first elected President in the office's history not to have had the support of Fianna Fáil.

Mary Robinson in 2014


  • We have entered a new reality where fossil fuel companies have lost their legitimacy and social license to operate.
    • The Elders Chair Mary Robinson Uses UN Press Conference to Denounce President Trump, Canada Free Press, Joseph A. Klein (13 June 2019)
  • The opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the landmark post-WWII text signed seventy years ago this month, still resonate today: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” But the contours of today’s world are changing – often literally, as climate change sees sea levels rise and coastlines erode, threatening small island states and low-lying communities. And it’s incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the people living in these areas, and those who migrate from their homes due to war, persecution and poverty are as “free and equal in dignity and rights” as those of us living in prosperity... The need for collective action to protect the vulnerable and defend their rights is urgent, as the threat from divisive populists shows no sign of receding. We all need to remember that refugees and migrants are not a “horde” threatening livelihoods and security... The Global Compact can actually strengthen sovereignty by giving back to countries the ability to manage migration – as opposed to the chaotic scenes we have witnessed in the Mediterranean in recent years, with so much wretched human misery and hardship...

Quotes about her

  • The executives were given a dressing down by the former Irish premier Mary Robinson. She said: "We should all salute the courage the Holy Father has shown on climate change when too many secular leaders have spurned their responsibilities." Ms Robinson asked the oil bosses: "What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?" She said the energy transition would require a massive shift of capital to clean energy and warned: "If some industries fail to adjust to this new word, they will fail to exist."
  • She used a press briefing at UN headquarters.. to excoriate President Trump. She blamed, at least in part, what she characterized as President Trump’s “poor leadership” for... the increasing tendency... to put “country first in an isolationist, nationalistic way.” Ms. Robinson also complained about what she claimed was the “destabilizing” effect of President Trump’s tweets.... Ms. Robinson told reporters that the Elders had met with the autocratic presidents of China and Russia. However, the Elders had not requested any meeting with President Trump. “It’s difficult to see how constructive a conversation we could have with President Trump at the moment, given his clear views,” she said, referring particularly to the issues of climate change, the nuclear proliferation threat, multilateral trade, and the value of multilateralism... In June 2017, reacting to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Mary Robinson said it was “unconscionable that one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters would simply walk away from its responsibility to people both at home and abroad.” She accused the president of turning the United States into “a rogue state on the international stage.”... Ms. Robinson’s...on par with the most progressive proponents of the “Green New Deal.”...“We have entered a new reality where fossil fuel companies have lost their legitimacy and social license to operate,” she declared. No more exploration by fossil fuel companies for new reserves, she demanded.
    • The Elders Chair Mary Robinson Uses UN Press Conference to Denounce President Trump, Canada Free Press, Joseph A. Klein (13 June 2019)
  • This year, we are awarding the Kew International Medal to Mary Robinson, a long-standing champion of climate justice and founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Mary’s work demonstrates how dependent humanity is on the ecosystems that surround us, and the impact of the increased threat to their existence. Like Kew, she is committed to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals on biodiversity, agriculture and food security. She believes in supporting the next generation of scientists and climate activists and is working alongside them to demand that we make better use of our planet’s most precious resources.
  • The Elders announced today that their new Chair will be Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mary Robinson becomes The Elders’ third Chair since the group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, following Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2007-13) and Kofi Annan (2013-2018). Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General, and Graça Machel, former Education Minister of Mozambique and co-founder of The Elders, will serve as joint Deputy Chairs, succeeding Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, who has held the role since 2013.
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Emeritus Elder and former Chair, said: “I am delighted that Mary Robinson is the new Chair of The Elders. I have witnessed her commitment to rights and justice in Palestine, Côte d’Ivoire, India and so many other parts of the world. Mary always puts ordinary people at the heart of The Elders’ mission, and I know she will fight for their rights with the same vigour as our dearly missed brother Kofi.”
  • Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General and new Deputy Chair of The Elders, said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to become Deputy Chair of The Elders alongside Graça Machel. I look forward to working with my fellow Elders under Mary Robinson’s leadership to defend human rights, address the challenge of climate change and promote equality.”

See also


The Elders

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