Irish President Mary Robinson announced Wednesday she will not seek a second term, saying she plans instead to work on human rights issues in the international arena.
Robinson has been mentioned as a candidate for U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, a post that became vacant when Jose Ayalo Lasso recently returned home to become Ecuador’s foreign minister.
While not commenting directly on that job, Robinson told RTE, the Irish state radio, “I want to make my contribution probably in the area of human rights and in a wider context.”
She was not letting the presidency go without regrets, however. Mrs. Robinson has scored consistently high ratings in opinion polls and almost certainly would not have been opposed for a second term.
“There will never be anything in my life to equal it, but I think … that there should be an election choice and new vision,” she said.
The 52-year-old president, a liberal lawyer, won election in 1990 with 52 percent of the vote to become Ireland’s first woman president.
Last year, she also became the first Irish head of state to pay an official visit to Britain as a guest of Queen Elizabeth II.
And she was the first Irish president to travel to Northern Ireland with the “hand of friendship.” Her 1993 handshake with Gerry Adams was the first signal his IRA-allied Sinn Fein party had gained some legitimacy as a political player.
She also was important as a symbol that Ireland could try something new: her term saw a divorce referendum and small movement on abortion.
The government offered to amend the constitution to drop the troublesome claim to Northern Ireland, a move that dovetailed with Mrs. Robinson’s symbolically important marriage to a Protestant lawyer.
She used the largely ceremonial presidency as a global platform to speak out on issues like poverty and international abuses of human rights.