Mary Robinson ‘bullied’ into leaving presidency early

Climate campaigner says it was ‘a mistake’ to let Kofi Annan talk her into leaving Áras

Former president Mary Robinson has said she was bullied by then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan into taking up the role of commissioner sooner than she wanted.

Ms Robinson took up the role of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 1997, three months before her presidency ended.

“I did want to be High Commissioner for Human Rights when I decided to step down,” she said.

“I then made the mistake, and that was a mistake, of allowing Kofi Annan to sort of bully me into coming earlier and not seeing out the last month-and-a-half, or whatever it was, of my presidency.”


Ms Robinson said it had been a difficult decision not to go forward for a second presidential term.

She also said she feared there was an impression by the public that she did not like being president, but that this was untrue.

“It was the hardest decision not to go for a second term. I knew myself that it would be very difficult to do it with the same utter 100 per cent conviction for a whole seven years. I could do it for three or four and then the repetition would begin to be too much.

“And I also felt, you know, I have opened up the office. It would be good to have an election and to have somebody else to come in and carrying forward.

“Mary McAleese did a very good job. I think Michael D Higgins is doing a very good job. I think the presidency is in a very good place and I am very pleased about that.”

Ms Robinson now leads the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice which is a centre highlighting global justice for vulnerable people impacted by climate change across the world.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Robinson said being a grandmother makes her think a lot about the future.

“ I do think a lot about 2050. My grandchildren will be in their 40s - the youngest won’t even be in his 40s - they’ll have at least half their lives to live. They’ll share the world with more than nine billion people,” she said.

“Unless we are prepared to take some real steps now, how are they going to live in social harmony of any kind? How will they have enough food? How will they have enough water? We are at that point where we need to ensure that global greenhouse emissions that are causing climate change peak in 2020 globally.

“We’re not seeing it being enough of every countries approach at the highest political level,”she said.