She held this post until 2002, after pressure from the United States led her to declare that she wasn’t able to continue her work. Photography: MRFCJ Mary Robinson became the first female president of Ireland in 1990 but refused to be a figurehead like her predecessors. It’s a passion for human rights that causes me at times to provoke. So I couldn’t pick as my deputy a very good Swedish human rights person, who would have been ideal, because we were both European. Mary Robinson became President 25 years ago. Mary Robinson. Is there a secret to cutting through bureaucracy of the kind you faced at the UN? At the UN, I agreed to serve an extra year after my first four-year term, and then 9/11 happened. As a nonexecutive president, I had to use symbols and the right language and to reach out into small communities and the inner city and different parishes and use examples of what was happening there to influence others. In those days, that was unusual, but I did it because I deeply believed that those areas needed to be reformed if we wanted to have an open, pluralist country and help the peace process in Northern Ireland. On one trip to Belfast she met with the local MP, Gerry Adams, the President of Sinn Féin. I went to Paris, and that changed everything. Trinity College). But we need to link women who have access to power with women at the grass roots who are coping with human-rights abuses. So I’m very interested in more innovative leadership by women—in business as well as politics. I was furious, because after all, I’m a trained barrister and should be able to advocate calmly, with assurance, but I realized afterward that the message was all the more powerful because it had clearly so affected me as an individual, as a woman. Dec 3, 2015: 25 years since MARY ROBINSON was inaugurated as President of Ireland, writes Cathal Coyle. Beating off her main rival, Brian Lenihan, Robinson was inaugurated as the seventh President of Ireland on 3 December 1990. Since I ended my term as high commissioner for human rights at the UN, in 2002, I’ve learned to influence in a different way. Robinson: I deliberately took part in debating competitions when I was in college to give myself the courage to speak in public—to not go blank through nerves, through shyness. I believe very firmly that real, sustainable leadership is to strengthen the institution and give it vision and purpose. There’s a life after serving as high commissioner, so let’s find a different path to work on human rights. I think a lot about my four grandchildren, two girls and two boys, who will be in their 40s in 2050, when we may have as many as 200 million climate-displaced people. Born on 21 May, 1944, in Ballina, County Mayo, Mary Robinson is a barrister by profession and was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law in Trinity College Dublin when she was 25 years of age. She was succeeded as President of Ireland by another female President, Mary McAleese, who served two terms. Mary Robinson finished first in the election, with almost 39% of the first preference vote, ahead of Austin Currie (nominated by Fine Gael) and Brian Lenihan (nominated by Fianna Fáil). My foundation has now reached an agreement with the World Resources Institute, in Washington, D.C., which has a very good reputation for tough, evidence-based reports, and we’re working together over the next few years on a global report on climate justice. All Rights Reserved. Of course, that meant that I would shake the hand of Gerry Adams. I believe they can be useful. When I spoke at a press conference in Nairobi, I felt a wave of all those images of suffering, of pain, of women, of the voiceless, of the impoverished, come to me. Six years later, Amnesty International awarded her its ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award for her Human Rights work. I couldn’t walk away when things were so serious. What I took from it is that small can be beautiful. The final count raised her total to 52% and she was duly elected, in what was a watershed moment for Irish politics and society. In 1992, she was the first head of state to visit Somalia after it suffered from civil war and famine; she was also the first to visit Rwanda after the genocide in that country in 1994. The British government hadn’t wanted it to happen; neither had the Irish government or most of the Irish newspapers. We’ve inherited largely male environments, male ways of doing things, male hours of work, and so forth. My mother also was a great influence, as were public figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Irish heroes who espoused nonviolence. He showed that everybody matters, which became the title of my memoir. But it doesn’t take me very long to realize that perhaps I’ve been saved from the wrong choice. I had retired after 20 years of serving in the Irish senate and was taking test cases that were making a big difference in various areas of law, and my husband and I had the Centre for European Law, which was providing expertise on European Union directives and regulations. Before she was elected President of Ireland in 1990, Mrs. Robinson served as Senator for 20 years. Mary Therese Winifred Bourke was born on May 21, 1944,in the town of Ballina, Ireland. I know you’ve had a long and successful marriage. How do you balance those family commitments with your work? 5. Yes, and they were nuns. Were there women you looked up to and admired? She quickly gained a reputation as a strong advocate for human rights, one such campaign sought to eliminate discrimination against women in Irish society. Quite famously, RTÉ broadcast her election victory speech live rather than the Angelus. Some say that you were passed over for attorney general before the presidency. After leaving her post at the United Nations, Mary Robinson founded the non-governmental organisation Realising Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative. But when I was elected, I made it very clear that I was going to be doing the job as a woman. How much emotion should leaders show? The three-way battle to succeed Patrick Hillery (who had served two terms as the President of Ireland since December 1976) was intriguing. Dec 3, 2015: 25 years since MARY ROBINSON was inaugurated as President of Ireland, writes Cathal Coyle. Have you ever really looked carefully at the provisions of the constitution relating to the president?” And when I looked I thought, “There is much more someone could do with this and it would be important, because it would be exercising a moral authority rather than the political power of the Irish parliamentary system.”. (PIC: RollingNews.ie) 7. And I had a great-aunt, who had been the head of several schools in England when she became reverend mother general. The last three climate conferences were presided over by women—Connie Hedegaard in Copenhagen, Patricia Espinosa in Cancún, and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Durban—and they have agreed to form a troika, around which we have built 60 ministers, heads of agencies, and business leaders, including nine or 10 supportive men. Early on, who were your role models and what did you learn from them? I’m doing that with my foundation. You were an incredibly popular president, with a 93% approval rating at one point. At every stage, it’s that passion for human rights that has prompted me to speak truth to power, to stand up to bullies, to be prepared to criticize even the United States after 9/11. It wasn’t possible to pick people of a nationality or even a region already represented on the team. Part of it is to be close to those providing good examples and to talk about their activity. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. She was nominated by the Labour Party, and supported by the Green Party, the Workers’ Party and independent senators, to seek election to become Ireland’s first female president. There are some interesting powers: the power to refer a bill that has been passed by Parliament but may not be compatible with the constitution to the Supreme Court, and the power to address both houses of Parliament, as I did on two occasions, although that does need the consent of the government.

when did mary robinson became president

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