Robinson aims for a human rights job with the UN

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Mary Robinson yesterday killed off Irish hopes that she will seek a second term as president and dropped a strong hint that she wants a top United Nations human rights post.

Mrs Robinson, Ireland's first woman president, has broken new ground since her election in 1990 by taking the presidency out to ordinary people and using it to modernise Ireland's image abroad.

She told the Taoiseach, John Bruton, yesterday of her decision and made it known that she would be a willing candidate for the post of UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The vacancy arose when the incumbent, Ayalo Lasso, quit to become Ecuador's foreign minister.

The President will see out her term until the end of the year. But lobbying to secure her UN role could begin next week when the Taoiseach meets the Bill Clinton in Washington during St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Mrs Robinson's record as a human rights lawyer and frequent visitor to Third World countries give her strong credentials for such an appointment.

At home, her energetic contribution drew praise from all sides. The Taoiseach said she "probably deserves to be described as the best President we ever had". He said she had "dissipated stereotypes" about the Irish and "reached out to the poor and to those who felt the political system didn't matter for them".

Mrs Robinson came to office just as Ireland achieved a new confidence. She has also been fiercely independent, and drew the wrath of the British government when before the IRA ceasefire she met and shook hands with Gerry Adams in west Belfast.