Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Doctor of Civil Law

Dr. 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 1968-1990), legislator (Senator 1969-1989) and barrister (1967-1990. Senior Counsel 1980, English Bar 1973) she has always sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before European Court of Human Rights as well as in the Irish courts and the European Court in Luxemburg. A committed European, she has also served on the International Commission of Jurists, the Advisory Committee of Interrights, and on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.

In 1970, she married 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 at the same institution. The recipient of numerous honours 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 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, Dr. Robinson is currently leading a new project, the Ethical Globalization Initiative (EGI), supported by a partnership of the Aspen Institute, State of the World Forum and the Swiss based International Council on Human Rights Policy. 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.