On this day, Dec 3, in 1990, Mary Robinson was inaugurated as the tenth president of Ireland, the first woman to hold the role.
The Irish presidential election of 1990 was the tenth held in Ireland and the first to include a female candidate. Independent politician Mary Robinson would go on to hold office for the next seven years.
During her famous inauguration speech, Robinson said a new Ireland is emerging, one that will be more tolerant and more inclusive. She said that while her primary role as president would be to represent the Irish state, she would also represent the 70 million people around the world who claim Irish descent. It was her hope that Áras an Uachtaráin would be a place where representatives of the emigrant communities can meet annually.
Mary Robinson was President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. She resigned shortly before her term was due to expire to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the 1990 election, the Labor Party let it be known that it would run a candidate for the first time and nominated Robinson, a former Labor Party senator, and liberal campaigner. The renegade had been involved in the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and is widely regarded and respected as a transformative figure in Ireland for liberalizing and revitalizing what was a conservative and low-profile political office. She was a remarkably popular president.
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In honor of Robinson’s election as Ireland's first female President, we have compiled a list of ten of her memorable quotes:
“I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.”
“The aim of human rights, if I may borrow a term from engineering, is to move beyond the design and drawing-board phase, to move beyond thinking and talking about the foundation stones - to laying those foundation stones, inch by inch, together.”
“I'm more worried now than I was before I came here.”
“We will not let governments off the hook. We will look to civil society to help us, to pin governments, to what they have committed to here. And we will report on it.”
“A culture is not an abstract thing. It is a living, evolving process. The aim is to push beyond standard-setting and asserting human rights to make those standards a living reality for people everywhere.”
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“I am very shocked, as are all my colleagues about how much the people have been suffering, and how much they will go on suffering.”
“It's only when you have a critical mass of women in politics that you get women's issues attacked.”
“Young persons, because of their immaturity, may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and should, therefore, benefit from less severe sanctions than adults. More importantly, it reflects the firm belief that young persons are more susceptible to change, and thus have a greater potential for rehabilitation than adults.”
“It is necessary to ensure that the requirement to combat terrorism is not used to clamp down on freedom of expression, legitimate dissent, freedom of association and so on.”
“Count up the results of 50 years of human rights mechanisms, 30 years of multibillion-dollar development programs and endless high-level rhetoric, and the global impact is quite underwhelming, ... This is a failure of implementation on a scale which shames us all.”
"In a society where the rights and potential of women are constrained, no man can be truly free. He may have power, but he will not have freedom."
Do you think Mary Robinson was a good President of Ireland? Let us know in the comments section, below.
*Originally published in 2014.