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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 15:50 GMT
Mary Robinson: A career in quotes
Mary Robinson, shortly before becoming president in 1990
Mary Robinson - Ireland's first female president
Throughout her career, former Irish president and current UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson has been an outspoken commentator on a huge range of issues.

Here is a compilation of some of her best-remembered words:

On being elected Ireland's first woman president in 1990:

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson currently holds the UN's top human rights position
"I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.

"As president directly elected by the people of Ireland, I will have the most democratic job in the country. I'll be able to look [the PM] in the eye and tell him to back off."

On the outcome of this year's acrimonious UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa:

"I don't care who tells me or who doesn't tell me that Durban was a success. I know because the I know what the consequences of failure were ... it would have dramatically worsened North-South relations."

On visiting Somalia in 1992 in the aftermath of the country's brutal civil war:

"I felt shamed by what I saw, shamed, shamed. I have such a sense of what the world must take responsibility for."

Criticising Nato's air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, in particular the rising civilian death toll:

"I do not like the term collateral damage, people are not collateral damage, they are people, and they are civilians."

On the American bombing campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan:

"It is absolutely wrong that up to 6,000 civilians were killed in the terrible events of September 11, but equally we must have regard for the civilians in Afghanistan."

On her job as a UN human rights commissioner:

"The best human rights job in the world. I think that central to it is the moral authority. I can take on governments, I can stand up to bullies. I like that part of the job.

"I've always recognised the importance of addressing shortcomings and being outspoken, an awkward voice."

On allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya:

Mrs Robinson has spoken out against suffering in Chechnya

"My mandate requires that I be a voice for those who don't have a voice ... desperate people with no sense that the world cares enough ... we have to show 'yes we do', we take seriously the trauma of individual families.

"We want to know the truth and have those responsible for gross violations punished."

On the June 2000 execution of Gary Graham in the United States, convicted for murder as a 17-year-old:

Gary Graham
Gary Graham: Executed despite strong protests

"I believe the execution of Mr Graham ran counter to widely accepted international principles . The overwhelming international consensus that the death penalty shall not apply to juvenile offenders stems from the recognition that young persons lack maturity and judgment and cannot be expected to be fully responsible for their actions."

Criticising Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip:

"[There are] daily acts of discrimination, inequality, humiliation ... this has been intensified by the conflict, intensified by the excessive use of force. The civilian population feels besieged by a stronger power prepared to use its superior force."

On human rights in China:

"[There] has been a deterioration in the human rights situation in China in the last two years, particularly in repression of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and severe sentences for activities related to political expression."

On some Western countries fearing a 'human tide' of asylum seekers, and closing their doors to immigrants:

Asylum seekers
Asylum seekers are being demonised, warns Mrs Robinson

"This is a trend that has increasingly ugly, xenophobic undertones to it. There is a tendency to demonise those who come to rich societies in search of a better life.

"The rise of far-right parties in Europe is a clear example of unscrupulous politicians playing on fears."

On the need for reconciliation between Ireland's Catholic and Protestant populations:

"I shall seek to encourage mutual understanding and tolerance between all the different communities sharing this island."

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