Irishwoman Mary Davis has been announced as the new global CEO of Special Olympics International.

It is the first time in the organisation's nearly 50-year history that the position has not been held by an American.

Ms Davis was previously CEO of Special Olympics Ireland and Managing Director of the Europe Eurasia branch of the organisation.

Perhaps best known for her role in bringing the Special Olympics to Ireland in 2003, she also ran as a candidate in the 2011 presidential election.

She was officially announced as the organisation's global CEO at a gathering in Washington DC last night.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Ms Davis described the role as "exciting" and "daunting".

She said she had a huge role ahead of her because there were so many people with an intellectual disability around the world who were still excluded.

She said she viewed her appointment as "a reflection of the people of Ireland" and the volunteers in Ireland who had worked so hard for decades to put Special Olympics "on the map".

Ms Davis said she was very proud and honoured to have been part of that and it was "very special" to be able to work for the movement now on a global stage.

Special Olympics Chair Tim Shriver described Ms Davis as the "greatest motivator" of people to want to do their best for the Special Olympics movement he had ever had.

Ms Davis first became involved with Special Olympics when she was a teacher in Ballymun in Dublin in 1978 and over the course of almost 40 years has worked her way up from volunteer to today becoming the global CEO of the organisation.

Welcoming the appointment, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "Mary has done much to create equality in Ireland".

"Now she has the opportunity to do that globally," he added.

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability Finian McGrath added that: "Mary's track record in advocacy and campaigning for inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities speaks for itself."