Socialism Today           Socialist Party magazine

Unfair on Mary Robinson?

YOU HAVE published an article in Socialism Today No.63 (March 2002) about the World Social Forum. In it, you include former Irish president Mary Robinson as being in a group of "capitalist politicians who have implemented neo-liberal policies".

I call on you to withdraw this offensive label. As a member of the upper house of the Irish parliament, Robinson was not a proponent of anything ‘neo-liberal’ and spoke mainly on social and human rights issues. As president of Ireland, she had no possible role in any economic policy whatsoever and to say so demonstrates crass ignorance. And her work at the UN was, in the main, directed against the ‘neo-liberal’ policies of major states such as the US, which actively sought her removal. Unfortunately, they have succeeded.

I look forward to your clarification.

Daithí Mac Síthigh


Tony Saunois replies:

THANK YOU for your comments regarding the article on the World Social Forum written by me for issue No.63 of Socialism Today. I accept that Mary Robinson has raised many important issues relating to women, human rights and other questions that have not been in accordance with some aspects of neo-liberal policies that have been applied throughout the 1990s. She was also not the choice of the ‘establishment’ and other representatives of capitalism when she was elected to the Irish presidency in December 1990.

However, I cannot agree that the ‘offensive label’ you refer to be withdrawn in relation to Mary Robinson. The article stated that also present at the Porte Alegre forum were some capitalist politicians and their representatives who have been party to the implementation of the neo-liberal policies of the 1990s, including French ‘Socialist Party’ cabinet ministers, Mário Soares, the former Portuguese ‘socialist’ president, as well as Mary Robinson. During her presidency a series of governments in Ireland – Fíanna Fáil, Fíanna Fáil/Labour Party, and Fine Gael/Labour Party/Democratic Left – carried out important aspects of neo-liberal policies, such as the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Unfortunately, Mary Robinson did not speak out against such measures and did not oppose capitalism or support the alternative of socialism. In fact during her election campaign, when asked if she was a socialist she declined to comment.

I am aware that as Irish president she was not responsible for the economic policy of the government. However, surely you are not arguing that this is justification to remain silent about such important issues which have had such a detrimental effect on the lives of working people? Silence on such matters, especially when in such a prominent position, in my opinion can only make one party to such policies being implemented. As such, I feel fully justified in defending the argument in my article.


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