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Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990–1997) and more recently United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997–2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo (1944), the daughter of two physicians, she was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King's Inns Dublin, and Harvard Law School, to which she won a fellowship in 1967.
As an academic (Trinity College Law Faculty 1968–90), legislator (Senator 1969–89) and barrister (1967–90, Senior Counsel 1980, English Bar 1973) she has always sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights as well as in the Irish courts and the European Court in Luxemburg. A committed European, she also served on the International Commission of Jurists, the Advisory Committee of Interights, and on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.
She married in 1970 Nicholas Robinson, lawyer, conservationist, and an authority on eighteenth-century caricature. They have a daughter and two sons.
In 1988, Mary Robinson and her husband founded the Irish Centre for European Law at the Trinity College. Ten years later she was elected Chancellor of the University.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards throughout the world, Mary Robinson is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and, since 2002, has been Honorary President of Oxfam International. A founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, she serves on many boards including the Vaccine Fund, and chairs the Irish Chamber Orchestra.
Now based in New York, Mary Robinson is currently leading a new project, the Ethical Globalization Initiative (EGI). Its goal is to bring the norms and standards of human rights into the globalization process and to support capacity-building in good governance in developing countries, with an initial focus on Africa.
- Is a Fairer Globalization Possible? (Policy Library)
- Is a Fairer Globalization Possible? (Audio)
- Realizing Rights: Challenges for the International Forum on Development (Policy Library)
- Democratizing Globalization (Briefings)
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2008