Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson going to North Korea

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the US, and Mary Robinson, the seventh and first female President of the Republic of Ireland, are going with two other political leaders to North Korea. The other leaders are the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past prime minister of Norway.

They are part of a group called The Elders which was announced the first time in a speech by Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 89th birthday. The Elders offer their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems. Mary Robinson is one of the founding members.

Robinson was President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. The President of Ireland is directly elected by the people for a seven year term, and can serve at most for a maximum of two terms. The President is largely cermonial because the government of the Republic of Ireland is parliamentary. Some of the solely discretionary powers include:

  • the ability to refer a bill to the Supreme Court to ascertain its constitutionality

  • allows ministers to sign international treaties in her name

  • the right of pardon, although it is exercised rarely

The President has a number of other functions but these are at the permission or direction of some other branch of the Irish government.

Robinson is given credit for changing and invigorating the presidency. She reached out to the Irish 'diaspora' around the world. She also was the first Irish President to meet Queen Elizabeth the II at Buckingham Palace.

With regard to the opposite end of the spectrum, she met with the local MP, Gerry Adams, the President of Sinn Féin on one trip to Belfast.

In addition to the intense tension between North and South Korea, the North Koreans are holding an American who was taken into custody in connection with illegal religious activities in the North.