Robinson, Sir Henry Augustus (1857–1927), public servant, was born 20 November 1857 in Dublin, second son of Sir Henry Robinson, KCB, senior civil servant, and his wife Eva, daughter of the 10th Viscount Valentia. At the age of 17 he was placed in the office of a London firm of merchants as the first step in a business career. After two years, however, he returned to Dublin with the intention of joining the civil service. In 1876 he was appointed secretary to the recently established commission on the taxation of towns in Ireland, following the resignation of the previous secretary. He subsequently acted as secretary to two further commissions investigating the poor law and 'lunacy' administration, and municipal boundaries. In 1879 he was appointed as a temporary inspector, based in Westport, to supervise the administration of poor relief in Mayo and Galway. Famine conditions prevailed in the district and Robinson was later to recall that for the first eight months of his appointment he never spent two nights in succession in the same place. He joined the permanent staff of the Local Government Board as an inspector in 1882. The following year he married Harriet, daughter of Sir Robert Lynch Blosse (who held estates in Co. Mayo) and his wife Harriet, daughter of the 2nd marquis of Sligo. The marriage was apparently against the wishes of her parents, although they came to accept the match. At the end of 1885 Robinson was transferred to the Dublin district, but continued to be despatched on special missions to the west, and in 1887 he was appointed a commissioner to inquire into the administration of the relief of distress act of 1886.
On the retirement of his father as vice-president of the Local Government Board in 1890, Robinson was promoted to the position of junior commissioner. He was primarily responsible for the drafting and implementation of the local government act of 1898, and shortly before the bill became law was appointed vice-president of the Local Government Board. He received the KCB in 1900, and in 1902 was made an Irish privy councillor. The same year he was considered for the post of under-secretary by George Wyndham (qv), but was passed over in favour of Sir Antony MacDonnell (qv). Robinson served as one of the two Irish representatives appointed to the royal commission on the poor laws (established 1905). He was created a baronet in 1920.
Robinson sought, with some success, to maintain a working relationship with local authorities in the face of growing hostility from Sinn Féin councils seeking to throw off the restraints of British control. He remained temporarily in post after the Anglo–Irish treaty of 1921, retiring in 1922. Shortly afterwards he was advised by Michael Collins (qv) to leave Dublin, after an attack on his house in Foxrock. Robinson lived the remainder of his life in England, publishing two volumes of memoirs (1923, 1924). He died on 16 October 1927.
Robinson won the respect of successive chief secretaries, and of some nationalist politicians. His knowledge of the Irish localities was unrivalled within Dublin Castle, and he was chosen to act as guide to Edward VII during his tour of Ireland in 1903. Beatrice Webb, who served with Robinson on the royal commission on the poor laws, described him as having ‘the characteristics of all very clever officials; he seems indiscreet and is a monument of discretion’. Throughout his life Robinson was a keen yachtsman. He was also one of the first Irish motorists and was reputed to be an excellent mechanic. He had three sons: the eldest, Christopher, served as a resident magistrate (1912–22), recording his experiences in The last of the Irish R.M.s (1951). The youngest, Adrian, followed his father into the civil service, later becoming secretary to the minister of home affairs in Northern Ireland.