Professor Mary Robinson has held a number of high offices. She was the President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, then taking on the role of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002. Human rights remained one of her main areas of interest and expertise. Since 2004 she has taught on international human rights at Columbia University in New York. In 2010 she set up the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice to advocate for and educate the world about those most affected by the changing environment, namely the world’s poorest and more marginalised communities.
In her autobiography “Everybody Matters”, she describes what lay behind her vision, strength and determination that have helped her achieve so much for human rights around the globe. She’s never been afraid of tackling tough issues. A barrister, she followed her conscience to win landmark cases advancing the causes of women and the marginalised against the prejudices of the day. As a politician, she helped to legalise contraception in a deeply Catholic Ireland. And as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she faced the huge political difficulties in her term of office as well as many triumphs.
Towards the end of last month, she was invited to deliver a lecture at Edinburgh University on how human rights interact with the modern world. In an interview, she summed up her thinking:
The full lecture, delivered in the McEwan Hall to a sell-out audience, can be seen here: