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Former Irish president Mary Robinson to deliver major Belfast speech: Realising Rights for the World's Most Vulnerable People

Amnesty International has announced that former Irish President Mary Robinson will give the keynote address at the organisation’s 50th anniversary conference, to be held in Belfast this weekend.

“Poverty is as much a human rights issue as wrongful imprisonment or torture”, the one-time United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to tell a packed Whitla Hall on Friday 6 May, as she delivers a speech to a crowd of one thousand Amnesty International activists and members of the public.

Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland, will kick off Amnesty International’s national conference, which attracts human rights campaigners from across the UK.

In advance of her Belfast visit, Mary Robinson said:

“I am delighted to be visiting Northern Ireland again and to have the opportunity to say that tackling poverty is an issue of human rights, not aid or charity, whether in the developing world or on our own doorsteps here in Ireland, where people are facing very tough times.

“We must also be aware of the effects that climate change will have on the rights of the world’s most vulnerable people. It is important that we grasp these challenges now before the most devastating impacts are experienced by the world’s poor.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Mary Robinson’s experience as one of ‘The Elders’, alongside Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu, together with her work as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has given her an amazing insight into the realities of global human rights.

“We need to find more ways to involve rights-holders – the people actually suffering from the abuses – in human rights campaigning. I’m sure that Mary’s perspective will be hugely valuable.”

The Amnesty International UK AGM and national Conference takes place at Queen’s University over three days from 6 May, and is a key meeting in the organisation’s democratic process. Hundreds of Amnesty’s keenest activists will assemble to discuss and debate the organisation’s direction and policies, as well as attending training and workshops to help them campaign more effectively.

Some tickets for the speech are still available from Amnesty at:

Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate.  Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo (1944), the daughter of two physicians, she was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King’s Inns Dublin and Harvard Law School to which she won a fellowship in 1967.

As an academic (Trinity College Law Faculty 1968-90), legislator (Member of the Irish Senate 1969-89) and barrister (Irish Bar 1967-90, Senior Counsel 1980; called to the English Bar 1973) she sought to use law as an instrument for social change, arguing landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court in Luxembourg as well as in the Irish courts.  A committed European, she also served on expert European Community and Irish parliamentary committees.

In 1988 Mary Robinson and her husband founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College.  Ten years later she was elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Mary Robinson is a member of the Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid. 

Mary Robinson serves as Honorary President of Oxfam International and Chair of Board of the Institute of Human Rights and Business in addition to being a board member of several organisations including the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the European Climate Foundation.

From 2002 - 2010 Mary Robinson was the founder and President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative based in New York.  She is currently President of the recently launched Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice ( based in Dublin.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary on 28 May, Amnesty International is a movement of over three million people around the world, standing up for humanity and human rights. Its purpose is to protect individuals wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied. The organisation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year on 28 May.

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