In an exciting new development for the west plans have been unveiled to establish a Mary Robinson centre in her home town of Ballina. The centre is to be established at Mary Robinson’s birthplace in Victoria House, on the banks of the River Moy, and will include both a visitor centre and an academic research centre, supported by NUI Galway and focused on scholarly research and education in the fields of human rights and women’s leadership.
This new initiative came about following an approach by Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council to the Robinson family, supported by local business people, with the intention of acknowledging the many national and international achievements of the former president and UN high commissioner for human rights. Ms Robinson strongly supports the proposal and generously offered to make her complete archive available to the centre.
The proposed visitor centre, which is to open to the public by the end of 2014, will provide a unique cultural tourism resource for Mayo as visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about Mary Robinson’s life and work, including her early roots in Ballina. The project will involve the refurbishment of Victoria House, a protected 19th century Georgian house, together with the construction of an annex to the house. Parts of the house will be recreated to its original condition at the time of Mary Robinson’s birth in 1944.
The property at Victoria House, which has been in the Bourke family for generations, is being made available to the centre by the owner, Mary’s brother Adrian Bourke, and will be leased in perpetuity.
The new development will also include a research and educational study centre, supported by NUI Galway and focused on the fields of human rights and women’s leadership. Ms Robinson’s archive will be the centrepiece of the educational facility, and as academic partner to the project, NUI Galway will bring researchers and students from all over the world to Ballina to engage with the archive.
NUI Galway is internationally recognised as a leader in the field of human rights and gender research, and offers undergraduate degrees and masters programmes in the area. The university will also advise on the cataloguing and making available of the extensive archive which is valued at more than €2.5 million.
“The people of Mayo and the west have taught me over the years the true meaning and spirit of meitheal, and have always been hugely supportive of my journey,” said Ms Robinson. “So I am delighted to respond to this initiative to ensure that my archive benefits Ballina and future generations.”
Ms Robinson’s archive is a vast collection illuminating the life and career of one of Ireland’s most distinguished public figures. The archive includes a library of books and periodicals, Ms Robinson’s personal diaries, working files, and detailed records of her career as a champion of human rights and women’s equality. Also included are numerous recordings and manuscripts from her time as President of Ireland.
President Jim Browne of NUI Galway commented: “NUI Galway is delighted to be associated with this exciting development. Mary Robinson’s archive is a rich resource for scholars working in the fields of human rights and women’s leadership. Through the university’s internationally recognised Irish Centre for Human Rights and through our Global Women’s Studies Research Cluster, we will use this opportunity to draw in students from around the world to engage with this important archive.”
The Mary Robinson Centre will provide a tremendous boost to the tourism economy of Mayo, Ballina, and the wider west of Ireland region. The centre is expected to attract tourists from Ireland and abroad, members of the public, students and researchers interested in learning more about Ms Robinson’s life and work, and will contribute significantly to the local economy in the years ahead.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Cyril Burke, said: “I would like to thank the Robinson family for the very generous offer of making the complete archive of Mary Robinson available to the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina.” Mayo county manager, Peter Hynes, added: “Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council are delighted to be associated with the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina. The development presents a fantastic opportunity for Mayo to create a centre of national and international importance in Mary Robinson’s home town of Ballina.”
Mayor of Ballina, Mr Willie Nolan, added: “Ballina Town Council wholeheartedly supports the plan for the centre and acknowledges the very generous offer from the Robinson family.”