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Mary Robinson

Updated on October 7, 2014

Mary Robinson; Former President of Ireland, Humanitarian, Environmentalist

Mary Robinson is quite an impressive woman. Not only was she one of the most popular Presidents of Ireland, her tireless works for woman's rights, humanitarianism, and environmental preservation are unparalleled. Since her presidency ended in 1997, Robinson has been busy chairing and serving on many boards that promote human rights. Mary Robinson also visits and lectures at colleges and universities around the world, and has received countless honorary degrees for her devotion to her causes.

Public domain press release photo courtesy Glasgow Caledonian University

Mary Robinson Quote

"I have been very lucky and very privileged, and it has been a huge honor to serve as President of Ireland - you cannot have greater honor than to be elected President of your

country." - Mary Robinson

Robinson Bio

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (née Bourke) (born 21 May 1944) served as the seventh, and first female, President of Ireland, serving from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish senate (1969-1989). She defeated Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael's Austin Currie in the 1990 presidential election becoming, as an Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers' Party and independent senators, the first elected president in the office's history not to have had the support of Fianna Fáil.

She is credited by many as having revitalised and liberalised a previously conservative political office. She resigned the presidency four months ahead of the end of her term of office to take up her post in the United Nations. Robinson has been Honorary President of Oxfam International since 2002, she is Chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and is also a founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders. Robinson is also one of the European members of the Trilateral Commission.

She serves on many boards including as chair of the GAVI Alliance (until 2010). Robinson's newest project is Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which fosters equitable trade and decent work, promotes the right to health and more humane migration policies, works to strengthen women's leadership and encourage corporate responsibility. The organization also supports capacity building and good governance in developing countries. She is Chancellor of the University of Dublin. Since 2004, she has also been Professor of Practice in International Affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches international human rights. Robinson also visits other colleges and...(read more)

Robinson's stint as president was very well received by the Irish people. Half way through her term of office (1990-1997), her approval rating reached an unheard of 93%.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

In this July 2009 photo, U. S. President Barack Obama awards Mary Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The medal is the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.

Public domain press release photo courtesy Gubu-World

Presidential Medal of Freedom

Background and History

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a decoration bestowed by the President of the United States and is (along with the equivalent Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress), the highest civilian award in the U.S. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom has its roots in the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II. President John F. Kennedy nominally revived the medal in 1963 through Executive Order 11085. In practical terms, this order created what amounted to a new decoration, with totally different insignia, vastly expanded purpose, and far higher....(read more)

Mary Robinson became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 12, 1997, resigning the Irish Presidency a few weeks early with the approval of Ireland's political parties in order to take up the post. She served at the position until 2002.

Public domain photo courtesy

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Otto Hahn Medal

Mary Robinson won the prestigious Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 2003 for "outstanding services to peace and international understanding, especially for her political leadership, which was marked by high humanitarian ideals, and her tireless and courageous efforts for the worldwide promotion and defense of human rights."

Public domain press release photo courtesy Wylie

doctor mary robinson photos
doctor mary robinson photos

Mary was one of the 11 original members of the Council of Women World Leaders, which formed in 1996.

Public domain press release photo courtesy Keenan

The Council of Women World Leaders

The Council of Women World Leaders was created at a 1996 summit of 11 of the world's then-current and former presidents and prime ministers. The first convening of the Council took place in 1997 at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The Council of Women World leaders presently has 35 members - which includes nearly all of the current and former female heads of state and government. An integral and essential part of the Council structure is the Ministerial Initiative, which engages sitting and former women ministers and cabinet members. The Ministerial Initiative began in 1998 to promote ministerial-level exchange on global issues, to identify and address the particular challenges facing women in ministerial leadership positions, and to increase their visibility both nationally and internationally.

A key dimension of the Council’s mission has been to build the capacity of emerging leaders. To this end, the Council has developed a program which places promising young women in the offices of Council members and other women leaders for summer fellowships. Supported by the Council’s early association with Harvard, and later, Columbia University, 62 women and one man have served as fellows in 24 offices worldwide.

Another Robinson Quote

"I often joke that I had to become interested in human rights because I was the only sister wedged between four brothers."-Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson Interview

Opinions on Robinson? - Let your feelings be known here.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      It's like I always say: "In the game of cards, women are the hearts and diamonds. Men are the spades and clubs." Of course, That's just a generalization. But I'm sure you catch my drift. :) Shared via Pinterest.

    • OMENA777 profile image

      OMENA777 5 years ago

      Great role model for women and love your lens. Thanks

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      Great lens on a fine woman! Thanks

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Thank you for doing this lens.

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 7 years ago

      The more women leaders the better!