When President Mary Robinson attended the 25th-anniversary celebrations of the single parent support group Cherish there was no inkling of the important announcement due to follow later.
In the last few months, the President has made no secret of her desire to work in the area of human rights, once her term of office ends. The outgoing government, under Taoiseach John Bruton, has endorsed her candidature for the position.
I do have a very strong inner sense of justice. I have a sense that, perhaps, part of the commitment to human rights is understanding how vital it is in societies, and then being able to communicate in a broader sense.
In a statement this evening she said that she was honoured by her appointment, and deeply appreciated the trust and confidence which the Secretary-General had placed in her. She also said she valued the support of the Irish Government in promoting her for the post. While the position poses daunting challenges, they are ones she is gladly prepared to accept.
The UN position is undoubtedly an honour for President Robinson, but there is an issue regarding commencing her new role in September, as her term in the presidency doesn’t expire until December. At the time this report was broadcast, it was unclear if she would serve her full term of office, or if a presidential election would be called earlier than expected.
In March 1997, when asked about the possibility of an early resignation in the event of her appointment to the United Nations, Mrs Robinson emphasised her commitment to her role as President of Ireland,
I have spoken to both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, and they have made it clear that the government would support the possibility of going forward in due course for High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I greatly appreciate that. But I’m committed to seeing out my term and I certainly sincerely hope that would be the case.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 12 June 1997. The reporter is Ingrid Miley.