Coronavirus pandemic will expose bad governments, Robinson says

Former president says people are learning that science matters when it comes to policy

The coronavirus pandemic is going to expose bad governments in a very raw and very cruel way, the former president, Mary Robinson, has said.

The per-capita death rate in countries that are badly managing the crisis will show that “government matters”, she said on Sunday, when listing a number of lessons that could be be drawn from the pandemic.

She said we are also now learning that “science matters”, with society rightly listening to the health experts who are guiding government policy.

“But we should have been listening to climate scientists, we should have been following them more rigorously up to now, and we must in the future.”


Society was also learning that “human behaviour matters”, with people’s willingness to act collectively in terms of social distancing and cocooning being an important element of the fight against the virus.

The crisis was also leading to an “opening up of compassion and empathy” with people being reminded of the need for solidarity and for caring about others.

The pandemic “reminds us of our fragility as humankind,” she said, when being interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1.

Ms Robinson, who is the chair of the global Elders group, founded by the late Nelson Mandela, said that as countries emerge from the lockdown period people must bear in mind the climate challenge.

“I’m going to travel much less, there is no doubt about that, because I’ve become very adept at zooming. I can be places with my voice and my face, my presence, I don’t have to be there physically. That’s a good thing.”

She said she had been flying too much prior to the crisis.

Earlier this year, she said, she was “in a sort of despair” because governments, including the Irish government, were not being ambitious enough in terms of reducing carbon emissions in line with what climate scientists have recommended.

Ms Robinson noted that female political leaders were performing well around the globe in terms of leading their governments in the context of the pandemic.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent