Mary Robinson is inaugurated as the seventh (and first female) President of Ireland. Robinson – the Labour Party candidate – was initially considered a long shot for the presidency as she was up against the immensely likeable Fianna Fail candidate Brian Lenihan. Lenihan was once described by the acerbic John Kelly of Fine Gael as “like a lighthouse in the Bog of Allen: brilliant but useless.” Lenihan’s involvement in an effort to (unconstitutionally) pressurize a former President came back to haunt him and opened the door for Robinson’s victory. She was an immensely popular President both nationally and internationally.
In 1997, Robinson became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her dedication to human rights has seen her win numerous awards including Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the United States. This award was criticized by many pro-Israel supporters who perceive Robinson’s support for disadvantaged Palestinians to be anti-Zionist. Robinson did not take the criticism lying down. “There’s a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community. They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Archbishop Desmond Tutu gets the same criticism.”