What is it with the Irish nation and our love of Mary Robinson? We simply adore the woman.
During her time as Irish President, Mary Robinson received unlimited amounts of coverage by the Irish media. We as a nation loved her. We could not get enough. We followed Mary’s every action in the national and often international media. We beamed with pride at her regular address of human rights issues. Mary Robinson received incredible favourability during her time as Irish President. She was a charismatic figurehead for our country. She represented a modern, changing Ireland we were (then) proud of.
Mary Robinson has again hit the headlines. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the White House in recognition as a prominent advocate for women’s rights. The award has been marred by controversy due to claims from American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who maintain Mary Robinson is not an appropriate recipient of the award. AIPAC base their stance on Ms. Robinson’s alleged responsibility for the 2001 Durban conference against racism descending into an anti-Israel propaganda forum. A spokesperson for the White House re-stated the basis for the award. The spokesperson acknowledged that Ms. Robinson has made statements that Barack Obama did not agree with, but it was likely the same applies to all intended sixteen recipients of the medal.
Once again, I feel proud of Mary Robinson.
I cannot help but wonder how Mary, our current President Mary McAleese, feels about Mary Robinson’s ascension to an international figure. Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese are obviously two completely different people. Their personalities are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but do we subconsciously compare them? Mary Robinson possesses qualities of a natural leader, whereas Mary McAleese gives the Presidential office a human – and emotional – edge. Mary McAleese’s softening of the Presidential role is an achievement, but has failed to capture the imagination and coverage of both the press and Irish nation. Mary McAleese is regularly criticised for doing little in her role as President. Mary McAleese is as equally busy as Mary Robinson was during her time as President. The defining difference is that Mary McAleese’s daily actions and speeches receive a fraction of media coverage Mary Robinson boasted.
I am sure Mary McAleese is proud of the Mary that came before her. On days like today, when Mary Robinson is in the headlines, I wonder if Mary McAleese ever gets frustrated while eating her Corn Flakes and reviewing the newspapers. I can picture her throwing down the paper, maybe spitting some cereal, and angrily asking her family what she must do to win the favourability of the Irish nation like the ‘Other Mary’ did.