Mary Robinson on climate change, women’s leadership

Recent flooding in Ireland is linked to global climate change, and those who live on the island can “expect more in the future,” says former Irish President Mary Robinson. Nevertheless, 2015 marked a “significant year for sustainable development” around the world, thanks in part to the milestone climate accord reached in Paris in December.

Robinson spoke 6 January 2016 at the the fourth annual Nollaig na mBan breakfast in Washington, D.C., (photos in previous post). The event, hosted by the Irish American Partnership, raised $12,000 for Ireland’s first presidential library, appropriately honoring the Republic’s first woman president. See my earlier post.

Robinson, who participated in the climate conference, said the gathering of nearly 200 countries was most notable for the attention that was given to smaller, more vulnerable nations. While “the agreement is weak,” she said, “business will have heard that signal” and have to act accordingly.

“This is a new stage in the way we will live with Mother Nature,” Robinson said. “We are in a new era where women’s leadership matters more than ever.”

Here’s Robinson’s September 2015 TED Talk on “Why climate change is a threat to human rights.” And here’s a December 2015 Democracy Now interview with Robinson from Paris.

Robinson did not address the 1916 Easter Rising centennial, or 2016 elections in Ireland and the U.S. (which could produce America’s first woman president). Such matters dominated the breakfast chatter before Robinson’s talk. It appears she wanted to keep the “honorable tradition” (her term) of past presidents avoiding direct comment on Irish policy and politics.


The Irish American Partnership also released its 2015-2016 Annual Campaign Report during the event. The Partnership “works to empower the next generation of Irish leaders by supporting educational initiatives through direct grants to primary schools, science teacher training, university access scholarships, employment learning programs and … provides forums for visiting leaders from Ireland to speak in the U.S., connecting Irish-Americans with their heritage and promoting economic development through tourism, trade, and mutual exchange.