Irish people urgently need to pull together says former Irish president Mary Robinson.
She was speaking to a group of young Irish professionals from the IN-NYC organization at the Irish consulate in Manhattan.
A self-confessed optimist, Robinson said that the Celtic Tiger had pushed Irish people apart.
“Some people were getting unbelievably rich and many others were not. That divide was beginning to become something that was beginning to get under peoples skin,” she said.
Looking ahead to Ireland’s future, Robinson said she feels “now that the bubble has burst” the country will revert back to how it behaved in the early 90’s.
“That community strength during the 90s was tremendous and then we got a little selfish so it would be nice to have that back again,” she added.“I remember when I was out looking for votes during the 90s I felt a strong sense of community.
People helped each other out. They got things done. If Dublin wasn’t doing it for them then they would do it for themselves and I have a strange feeling that’s how it’s going to be in the future in Ireland,” she said.
But, she said, it was important to remember that Ireland was still in a much better situation than it was 10 years ago.
“We are still very much further forward than we were 10 years ago and will be. We haven’t gone back in negative terms,” said Robinson.
She cited infrastructure, education, technology sector and environment advancements as areas to look to for hope and positive developments.
And she said that the Irish Diaspora would play an extremely important role in Ireland’s future.
She predicted that the post-crash atmosphere in Ireland would make people more aware of the potential of the Diaspora.
Also touching on the undocumented in the Irish the U.S., Robinson said it was imperative the issue get sorted sooner rather than later as it was a human rights issue for those who are left in limbo.
Robinson, who said she would be spending more time in Ireland from next year on, said she wanted to become involved in the issue of climate change here.
“I’m very interested in Ireland repositioning itself on the climate change debate and being in the forefront advocating climate justice,” she said.
Mentioning her work in Africa over the years where she believes climate change is wreaking havoc. Robinson wants to get Ireland onboard with solving the issue.
“We are still completely underestimating the negative impacts of the climate issue in Africa. It’s a terribly serious issue and Ireland can help,” said Robinson.”
“I think Ireland is extremely well placed to be a bridge between what’s happening in Silicon Valley and in Africa,” she added referring to new technologies being developed to combat and control climate change.
“It’s the lifestyles in this part of the world and other parts of the world where we have a carbon development that is actually using up the resources of the earth, as we know and producing these greenhouse gas emissions.”
Getting Ireland more involved in the climate issue, Robinson said it would not only benefit Ireland environmentally but it would also create jobs for Irish people
Robinson, 65, spoke of her role as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights from 1997 to 2002, her presidency of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and her hopes and aspirations for Ireland in the future.
She also spoke of her membership in a group called the Elders, senior former politicians from many countries led by Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who attempt to tackle the most difficult issues around the world.