Dr Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former 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 1968-90), legislator (Senator 1969-89) and barrister (1967-90, Senior Counsel 1980, English Bar 1973) Dr Robinson has always sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights as well as in the Irish courts and the European Court in Luxemburg. A committed European, she also served on the International Commission of Jurists, the Advisory Committee of Interights, and on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.
Dr Robinson married Nicholas Robinson in 1970, a lawyer, conservationist, and an authority on eighteenth-century caricature. They have a daughter and two sons.
In 1988 Dr and Mr Robinson founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College Dublin. In 1998 Dr Robinson was elected Chancellor of the University.
The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Dr Robinson is a member of the Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid. She is chair of the GAVI Alliance Board and President of the International Commission of Jurists.
She serves on several boards including the Global Compact, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society.
Dr Robinson has returned to live in Ireland, following the planned end of Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative in December 2010. She now serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice.