The Honourable Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland, became an honorary graduate of the University of Bath yesterday, Wednesday 16 September, in a ceremony at Bath Abbey.
The occasion featured a lecture open to local people from Mrs Robinson on ‘Realising Rights: the role of religion in human rights in the future’ and was part of the 1100th anniversary celebrations of the Diocese of Bath & Wells.
Mary Robinson served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002 and is now President of Realizing Rights, the ethical globalization initiative which she founded to put human rights at the heart of global governance and policy-making and to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are addressed on the global stage.
Speaking at the ceremony Professor Glynis Breakwell, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said of Mary Robinson: “Throughout her career she has spoken out against suffering and has provided a voice for those who would otherwise be silenced.
“In honouring Mary Robinson today, in the context of these celebrations for the 1100th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Bath and Wells, the University of Bath is honouring – to borrow a phrase from Sir Isaiah Berlin – “a soldier in the battle for human freedom”.
“Mary Robinson has argued that human freedom is “that precious space secured by standards. Laws and procedures which defend, protect and enhance human rights”. She has said that we are all custodians of those standards. I would suggest that she has been, and continues to be, one of the finest and most determined custodians of those standards that we have seen on the international stage. A fact recognised most clearly last month when she was one of the 2009 recipients of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.”
On receiving her degree of Doctor of Laws Mrs Robinson said: “I am truly honoured to be here in Bath in this magnificent Abbey to help mark the 1100th anniversary of the Diocese and to receive this award from the University. I have always treasured my connections to universities and I will treasure this new connection with Bath.”
Councillor Sarah Bevan, Vice Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “It is thanks to The Honourable Mary Robinson and people like her and to the enduring endeavours of this Christian foundation which we honour today, that we become the civilised people we want to be.”
Mary Robinson’s lecture will be available to hear online on Friday 18 September at the University’s mulitmedia page.
Mary Robinson is a founding member of “The Elders”, brought together by Nelson Mandela, and co-founder and former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and Vice President of the Club of Madrid. She chairs the Fund for Global Human Rights and is Honorary President of Oxfam International.
The event was jointly organised by the Diocese of Bath & Wells, the University of Bath and Bath & North East Somerset Council.