Home > Commentary > Remembering November 7th, 1990

Remembering November 7th, 1990

Mary_RobinsonOn this day in 1990 Mary Robinson was elected as the 7th Uachtarán na hÉireann, the President of Ireland. That election marked the first time that a woman was elected President of Ireland and it was the start of almost seven years in Áras an Uachtarán during which Mary Robinson not only pursued a professional and highly visible presidency but also revolutionised the office from a constitutional perspective (this is very effectively reflected on in David Gwynn Morgan, “Mary Robinson’s Presidency: Reflections with the Government” (1999) Irish Jurist 256).

Dr Robinson went on to hold the office of UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (not without some controversy, it must be said) and is now actively engaged in various projects around the ethical and human rights implications of globalisation and climate change. In particular, Dr Robinson heads up the Ethical Globalization Initiative in New York.

Before and after her period as President, Mary Robinson has had an enormous impact on raising awareness of human rights and on trying to make rights enforceable both in Ireland and abroad. Here in Ireland we ought to recall her pioneering work as counsel in numerous leading constitutional rights cases. As President she recognised and included groups who had previously normally been marginalised in Irish society and politics such as the LGBT community, she led the way in world leaders visiting and trying to counteract the devastation in Somalia and Rwanda (among other places) and she ensured that the idea of rights, equal esteem and equitability were high on the national agenda.

I, like many people, was a small girl kept up late by a delighted mother to see Mary Robinson be elected this day nineteen years ago. Since then I have had the enormous fortune to meet Mary Robinson and to see through my education and subsequently my research work the enormous difference that she made to Ireland and to world politics.

(Photo credit)

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