Ashleigh meets UN High Commissioner on internship

A YOUNG legal eagle from Listowel met one of her biggest heroes in a recent internship in the UN.

Listowel law student Ashleigh Neill never expected that she would get the chance to meet UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay when she headed out to Geneva earlier in 2012 to take up an intership with NGO Geneva for Human Rights.

Human rights became one of Ashleigh's preferred areas of study in Blackhall and the opportunity with Geneva for Human Rights came as the realisation of a dream for the idealistic student. But she never expected that she would meet a paragon of human rights she has looked up to for many years. Ms Pillay is the current successor to Mary Robinson's onetime position - at the height of global affairs.

"One of the highlights of the internship was meeting and speaking with Ms Navi Pillay," Ashleigh told The Kerryman.

"She is currently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and has been monumental in advancing numerous human rights issues across the world in particular the rights of women," Ashleigh explained.

"Ms Pillay is an extremely inspirational female figure. Prior to her role as High Commissioner she served as Judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague. I hope one day to also work in the International Criminal Court."

Ashleigh also helped organise an expert seminar entitled UN and Freedom of Religion. "The seminar focused on strengthening the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief and to highlight issues omitted from discussions between States during the Human Rights Council; it aimed at bridging the gap between human rights issues on the ground and the developments that take place in the UN in Geneva."

She was also present when Ireland was elected to the UN Human Rights Council, something the young Listowel woman greeted with 'delight'.

"This gives Ireland a great opportunity to influence legislation adopted at EU level and to continue to have a positive impact on the development of human rights at a global level."

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