Robinson applauds ‘empathetic’ Irish response to migrant crisis

Former president says Irish have shown themselves to be ‘citizens of the world’

Former president Mary Robinson has said the Irish people's response to the refugee and migrant crisis has shown them to be "empathetic citizens of the world".

Delivering a keynote address at a climate change event in Trinity College Dublin on Friday, Ms Robinson said Ireland had a history of generosity, collaboration and innovation.

“We are, I believe, empathetic citizens of the world. We are moved by injustice, as evidenced from the recent response to the refugee and migrant crisis. We are moved to seek justice and protect the most vulnerable,” she said.

Ms Robinson, who established the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, said climate justice sought to protect the rights of vulnerable people.


In reference to a visit to Fiji, which has suffered from intense rainfall and flooding, she said she had witnessed the injustice of the impact of climate change on the lives of people already living in poverty.

Ms Robinson said in one instance four hours of rain had washed away villages and crops, but she had been impressed by a simple early warning system developed by local people using text message alerts.

“The floods aren’t going to go away but lives can be saved by clever use of science and technology,” she said.

Ms Robinson said the people most affected by climate change had played no part in causing the problem. “They don’t own a car; they don’t have a fridge; they have no air conditioning unit.”

She said by taking action on climate change there would be an opportunity to make life better for millions of people.

There was “vast inequality and stubbornly persistent poverty” in the modern world, she said.

But 2015 was a year in which people could “dare to imagine” things could be different.

She called for a new era of sustainable development, adding that it could only be achieved through co-operation by all countries.

“In Ireland we have to take this seriously and begin to live more sustainably.”

She said she looked forward to legally binding agreements that would be struck at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris.

The world was at the start of a new era when plans to do without fossil fuels could be forged.

Ms Robinson said all businesses needed to reorient towards sustainable development in order to be relevant.

“We need a zero carbon, zero poverty world,” she said.

She concluded her address by quoting Pope Francis, who has called for a return to a belief that "being good and decent are worth it". She added: "I really like that. Being good and decent are worth it."

The event in Trinity, ‘Tackling Climate Change and Harnessing Sustainable Resources’, aimed to explore the potential of partnerships between research and industry.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times