Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, visited NUI Galway this weekend to mark the beginning of a new partnership with the University. Recent plans have been unveiled to establish a Mary Robinson Centre in the former President’s home town of Ballina, Co. Mayo. 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.
Speaking at NUI Galway, Mary Robinson also announced details of a public interview on her life and work, with Fintan O’Toole, to take place at NUI Galway on January 14, 2013.
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.
President Jim Browne of NUI Galway commented: “We at NUI Galway are delighted to have been invited to become involved in this project. We believe that the Mary Robinson Archive is very important for scholarship globally; for our region – it adds a truly unique piece of infrastructure to the knowledge capital of the West of Ireland; and for Ireland as a nation preserving the narrative of the life and work of probably the most significant figure to emerge from our country – a transformative figure of modern Ireland – Mary Robinson.”
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 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.
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.