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Oireachtas committee to investigate the funding of Mary Robinson Library

The library is due to be built in Mary Robinson’s family home in Ballina.

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson
Image: RollingNews.ie

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE is to ask questions about the public money given to fund the proposed presidential library for Mary Robinson in Ballina, Co Mayo.

The head of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts Peadar Tóibín has asked for Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and representatives from Mayo County Council and NUIG to come before the committee to answer questions about the funding and the plans for the building.

The Sinn Féin TD said that there were “significant concerns” about the project.

“The locating of Mary Robinson’s archive in Ballina would be of great value to the local economy and of great interest to the many people in the region,” Tóibín said. “Of course many people in Mayo are rightly proud of her achievements.”

However, the great cost to the State of the proposed project and the method in which decisions have been made are of serious concern to our committee.

The library, which is to contain a museum, archive, research and educational facility and an events venue, is expected to cost around €8.5 million.

It will be located in former president Mary Robinson’s family home in Ballina, which is currently owned by her brother, Adrian Burke. It has not yet been purchased by Mayo County Council, but the proposed purchase price has been set at €660,000.

The remainder of the costs are for construction and conversion of the building.

A report by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last month estimated that the library could cost Mayo County Council €1.5 million and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht €2 million.

Peadar Tóibín said it was “unclear” who had approved the decision to give the library the go-ahead, and how the funding had been decided on.

“I… have significant concerns that Mayo County Council have committed to covering unforeseen costs within the project,” he said.

He also raised questions about the tax relief worth up to €2 million which Robinson and her family will be able to avail of through the donation of her archive to the State. “This is a significant cost to the State and a break with precedent,” he said.

Mary Robinson was Ireland’s first female president, serving from 1990 until 1997, before serving as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for five years.

Other former presidents have donated their papers either to a university or a State institution, rather than to a purpose-built library.

With reporting by Ronan Duffy

Read: Controversy over €8.5 million price tag for Mary Robinson’s Presidential library

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