Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, visited NUI Galway to mark the beginning of a new partnership with the university around an exciting development for the Ballina region. Recent plans have been unveiled to establish a Mary Robinson Centre in the former president’s home town of Ballina. The centre, supported by Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council, will be established at Mary Robinson’s birthplace 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.
Mary 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 over €2.5 million.
The proposed visitor centre, which is set 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 years 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 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 Mary Robinson. “So I am delighted to respond to this initiative to ensure that my archive benefits Ballina and future generations.”
Mary 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, Mary 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.