Rush Limbaugh is yesterday’s man says Ireland’s former president. This week Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former high commissioner for human rights at the UN, told guests at the Distinguished Speakers Series that Limbaugh and the Republican Party's current debate over contraception came as an unwelcome surprise.
'It is inconceivable that in the 21st century we don’t understand the importance of the unmet needs of family planning,' Robinson told Ubspectrum.com. 'When I heard that story of the Georgetown graduate student who was called a ‘slut,’ it reminded me of what I was called in 1971 in Ireland.'
When Robinson was elected to the Irish Senate in 1969, she introduced legislation to legalize family planning. Her bill sought to amend a 1935 law that had made the selling or purchase of contraception illegal in the Republic. The uproar that followed her move astonished her.
'I became overnight somebody who was denounced from pulpits, by bishops, denounced in editorials in Catholic newspapers, and it shook me,' Robinson said. 'Yet I learned probably one of the most important lessons, which is if you really believe in something then you have to have the courage to be unpopular. Nothing later in life affected me the same way.'
After four years of undergraduate study at Trinity College in Dublin, Robinson travelled to the US in 1968 to study law at Harvard University. In 1990 she was the first woman to be elected president of Ireland, and another woman, Mary McAleese, succeeded her in 1997.
Robinson's comments conceding contraception were thought to be in response to Limbaugh's shocking decision to call Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, a 'slut' and a 'prostitute' after she argued in favor of affordable birth control in front of Congress.
Later underlining her longtime commitment to human rights Robinson held up her dog-eared copy of the Declaration on Human Rights and claimed that she carries it with her at all times.
'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights,' Robinson read from Article I of the Declaration.