Mary Robinson

Colour photo of Mary Robinson standing in front of flags shaking hands at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation in 2017

It has been almost 27 years since Ireland elected its first woman President, yet it is clear that the legacy of this landmark endures as Irish women continue to claim their rightful place in public office and continue to demand more for themselves, persisting in the quest for further reproductive rights. As Mary Robinson said, ‘Feel empowered. And if you start to do it, if you start to feel your voice heard, you will never go back

Leah Treanor


Black and white photo of Mary Robinson as President of Ireland in 1990

Mary Robinson as President of Ireland in 1990, from the Irish Labour Party [CC BY-ND 2.0(]

In 1990, Mary Robinson (1944- ) became the first woman President of Ireland, making Ireland the first EU country to elect a woman as Head of State. Her political career had begun 20 years earlier when she was elected to Seanad Éireann, the Upper House of the Oireachtas. A constitutional lawyer, Mary Robinson championed human rights and gender equality both in her work as a lawyer and as a Senator. Despite the limited constitutional remit of the Irish President, Mary Robinson’s Presidency was an active and meaningful one. Indeed, many would say that Robinson redefined the office of President itself.

The full version of this landmark is written by Leah Treanor.


Learn More

Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Mary Robinson: President of Ireland’

The Mary Robinson Centre, ‘Mary Robinson— Global World Leader’

President of Ireland, ‘Mary Robinson’

President of Ireland, ‘Office of the President of Ireland— A Timeline’

RTÉ Archives, ‘President Mary Robinson: From Rocking the Cradle to Rocking the System 1990’