She overcame political disadvantage to became an iconic champion of human rights and the first female president of Ireland, but Mary Robinson has revealed that she still had to undergo a physical makeover to get there.
Robinson, who is due to touch down in Australia next week, recently told Ryan Tubridy host of The Late Late Show how she took an “enormous leap” by becoming the independent Labor candidate for presidency. She said it was an “interesting day” when the proposition to run for president was first put forward to her, given she “wasn’t looking in that direction at the time”.
But she still needed an image transformation to further her appeal to the public.
“I needed a makeover… I was very lawyerly, I was sombre, my hair was very dull, I wasn’t wearing makeup,” she recounted.
“For me it wasn’t terribly important, but being a women, I knew If i was going to seek high office, I had to look well. It was kind of a different judgement on women and men on… these issues… Everybody who is in public life as woman knows [this]”
Robinson’s newly released memoir Everybody Matters also reveals that she initially wanted to be a nun, a decision she made at the age of 17, but was told by the Reverend Mother Provincial at Mount Anville to go away and think about it for a year. Twelve months later, she horrified her parents by announcing that she would no longer even be going to Mass
The change of heart prompted a significant change of course in Ireland’s history.
As the seventh president of Ireland, Robinson promoted the values of liberal democracy and staunchly fought for human rights that were not largely recognised by the constitution of Ireland. She later became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.