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Controversy over €8.5 million price tag for Mary Robinson's Presidential library

Questions have been raised about costs to the State.

QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN raised over a Presidential library for Mary Robinson in Ballina that could cost up to €8.5 million.

An RTÉ Prime Time report last night detailed concerns over the plans that will also see Robinson benefit from a tax break for donating her personal papers.

PastedImage-90595 Robinson's former family home where the presidential library is to be located. Source: RTÉ

The Presidential library is to be located in Robinson’s family home which is currently owned by her brother Adrian Burke. It has not yet been purchased by Mayo County Council with the proposed purchase price set at €660,000.

The report outlined that the library could cost Mayo County Council €1.5 million and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht €2 million.

The Victoria House Foundation, of which Robinson is a director, has so far raised about €1 million to help fund the project.

Total purchase and construction costs for the project have been put at €6.4 million.

Mayo County Council has pledged to “cover any unforeseen additional expenditure that may arise during the course of construction.”

Robinson was Ireland’s President for just under seven years and served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for five years. The documents she is donating to the library have been independently valued at €2.5 million.

Robinson and her family will benefit from tax breaks for the donation of the papers with Prime Time estimating that the tax breaks could cost the State up to €2 million.

It is the first time a former president has benefitted from a tax break from the donation of their papers. Historically, former presidents have donated their papers to a university or State institution.

Speaking on the programme last night, Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibín said the decision to forgo the traditional route was a “surprise”.

“The founding of a Presidential library is the a first in Ireland, there is considerable surprise in the academic community that Mrs. Robinson did not donate her papers to Trinity College, where she is chancellor,” Toibín said.

The cultural community has also expressed surprise. Catriona Crowe, former head of special projects with the National Archive,  said the decision was a puzzling one:
I am very surprised that Mrs Robinson is breaking the tradition, if you like, of lodging records with a university library or a cultural institution. Which has been the practice up to now. I can’t see any good reason to do other than that.

Read: Mary Robinson has been digging holes in Ethiopia – and has an important message for Europe >

Read: Former president Mary Robinson is very happy with the Pope >

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Rónán Duffy

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