Former Irish president Mary Robinson appointed chairwoman of The Elders

Former Irish president Mary Robinson has been appointed chair of peace and human rights campaigning group The Elders.

The international organisation of senior public figures was set up by the late Nelson Mandela in 2007.

Mrs Robinson becomes the third person to chair the group, following in the footsteps of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Kofi Annan, who died earlier this year.

Mrs Robinson said it was a “huge honour” to take up the role at such a critical moment for peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

“Building on the powerful legacies of Archbishop Tutu and Kofi Annan, I am confident that our group’s voice can both be heard by leaders and amplify grassroots activists fighting for their rights,” she said.

Irish President Michael D Higgins congratulated Mrs Robinson on her appointment, saying it was a “testament to the very high regard in which she is held at a global level”.

Mr Higgins, who was re-elected for a second term last week, said the former president continued to be a “source of inspiration and deep pride” for the Irish people.

“In her new role, Mary Robinson will build on the work of the late Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in harnessing the wisdom and experience of so many remarkable individuals to tackle the most pressing issues facing our world,” he said.

Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney, who also welcomed the appointment, said Mrs Robinson’s appointment to succeed Mr Annan, former secretary general of the UN, was “recognition of her long and courageous engagement in the causes of international peace, justice and human rights”.

“She takes up this position at a time when the world needs to hear strong voices, such as Mary Robinson’s, advocating for multi-lateralism and international co-operation.”

He added that she “brings great honour to Ireland” in the process.

Archbishop Tutu said he was delighted about the appointment.

“I have witnessed her commitment to rights and justice in Palestine, Cote d’Ivoire, India and so many other parts of the world,” he said.

“Mary always puts ordinary people at the heart of The Elders’ mission, and I know she will fight for their rights with the same vigour as our dearly missed brother Kofi.”

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and Mozambique’s former education minister Graca Machel, who co-founded The Elders, will serve as joint deputy chairs.

Mrs Robinson became the first woman elected as President of Ireland when she was inaugurated in 1990.

She is also a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In 2014 she was appointed to oversee UN efforts to tackle climate change.