Ireland's seventh President, subsequently United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Before seeking the presidency, Robinson had been a barrister, Professor of Criminal Law and political activist. She served as a member of Seanad Éireann, the Irish Senate, between 1969 and 1989.
She was nominated to the presidency by the Labour Party, although she was not at the time a member of that party. On her election, she became Ireland's first female head of state. Although she had narrowly beaten her closest rival in the election, Brian Lenihan, and only with the help of transfers from the defeated third candidate, Austin Curry, she quickly distinguished herself in the role of President, winning almost universal approval from the Irish public.
Always a radical advocate of human rights, she could not refuse the UN post when it was offered to her, so she resigned as President shortly before the end of her seven-year term in 1997. In 2001, she announced that she was not going to seek another four-year term with the UN, citing the lack of resources of the office. However, she was persuaded by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to remain in the post for a further year. Ironically, this new term began on September 11, 2001. During the USA's "war on terror" she was openly critical of the US on human rights issues, which may explain why she was not encouraged to stay on in the post beyond September 2002.