Everybody Matters My Life Giving Voice

Mary Robinson

Walker Books




336 Pages



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One of the most inspiring women of our age, Mary Robinson has spent her life in pursuit of a fairer world, becoming a powerful and influential voice for human rights around the globe. Displaying a gift for storytelling and remembrance, Robinson reveals, in Everybody Matters, what lies behind the vision, strength, and determination that made her path to prominence as compelling as any of her achievements.

Born in 1944 into a deeply Catholic family—the only girl among five children, Robinson was poised to become a nun before finding her own true voice. Ever since, she has challenged convention in pursuit of fairness—whether in the Church, in government and politics, or in her own family.

As an activist lawyer, she won landmark cases advancing the causes of women and marginalized people against the prejudices of the day, and in her twenty years in the Irish Senate she promoted progressive legislation, including the legalizing of contraception. She shocked the political system by winning election as Irelands first woman president in l990, redefining the role and putting Ireland firmly on the international stage. Her role as UN high commissioner for human rights, beginning in 1997, was to prove an even bigger challenge; she won acclaim for bringing attention to victims worldwide but was often frustrated both by the bureaucracy and by the willingness to compromise on principle, which reveal the deep and inherent barriers to changing the status quo. Now, back in Ireland and heading her Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, she has found the independence she needs to work effectively on behalf of the millions of poor around the world most affected by climate change.

Told with the same calm conviction and modest pride that has guided her life, Everybody Matters will inspire anyone who reads it with the belief that each of us can, in our own way, help to change the world for the better.


Praise for Everybody Matters

"Everybody Matters has all the hallmarks of the woman herself. Concerned for the truth, unflinching in the telling of it, and passionate to achieve a fairer world. I hope it inspires as many as possible."—Sir Richard Branson

"Mary Robinson has all the Gaelic attributes; she is warm, friendly, and engaging, and really passionate about human rights—especially the rights of women and young girls—and cares deeply about the environment. This is her story, the story of the lawyer who rose to be Ireland's first woman president and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights."—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

"Mary 'rights-based' Robinson, has been right about a lot of things . . . Human wrongs and human rights . . . not just in theory but in practice and in action, whether for Ireland as president, for the UN as rights commissioner, at GAVI as chair, or at the Elders as one of the youngers. We need more Marys. Hail Mary."—Bono

"Mary Robinson is a bold woman. Whether taking on the oppressive orthodoxy of Catholic dogma embedded in the Constitution, the rights of women, the oppressed and the dispossessed, she has been courageous, compassionate, and fiercely determined to do what is right. This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman, who is also one of my heroes."—Peter Gabriel

"[This] autobiography from one of the world's leading political figures provides a special insight into ongoing civil and human rights questions . . . A worthy addition to the growing list of memoirs from world-class servants of the public."—Kirkus Reviews

"This book will appeal to many kinds of readers, from memoir buffs generally to those interested in engagement with human rights issues, recent Irish history, or eloquent stateswomen of the world."—Library Journal

"Robinson fashions a stately, forthright autobiography . . . She details her work at hot spots across the globe, and writes engagingly and warmly of her current foundation addressing issues of climate change and world poverty."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Mary Robinson

  • Mary Robinson served as the seventh, and first female, president of Ireland from 1990-1997, and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. Robinson has been honorary president of Oxfam International since 2002, and has chaired numerous bodies, including the GAVI Alliance, vaccinating children worldwide, and the Council of Women World Leaders (of which she was a cofounder). She is a member of the Elders, an independent group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. A member of the American Philosophical Society, she is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Indira Gandhi and Sydney Peace Prizes. She is president of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, and lives with her husband, Nick Robinson, in Dublin and Mayo.