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Mary Robinson's Ballina home bought by Mayo County Council after years of controversy

The house has been at the centre of controversy over the cost of the project.

Controversy has surrounded the purchase of Mary Robinson's childhood home.
Controversy has surrounded the purchase of Mary Robinson's childhood home.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

BALLINA IS ONE step closer to establishing a Mary Robinson presidential centre, after Mayo County Council reached an agreement to purchase her former home following years of wrangling and controversy. 

Mayo County Council today said that after contracts and paperwork had been completed, construction of the Mary Robinson centre would begin in November 2019. 

The council did not disclose how much it paid for Victoria House, Robinson’s childhood home in Ballina. 

A spokesperson for the council thanked Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan for the “significant contribution” of €2 million from her department to the project. 

In 2016, an RTÉ Prime Time report detailed concerns over the plans for the presidential library in Ballina. It noted how Mary Robinson would have received a tax break for donating her papers to the centre, breaking with a precedent that has seen former presidents donating their papers to a university or state institution.

Robinson subsequently announced that she would not be donating her presidential papers to the proposed library, a decision that threw the project into doubt. Instead, Robinson said she would give her archive to NUI Galway. 

The project, which has faced serious criticism from local and national politicians, has been estimated to cost €8.5 million, with the initial purchase price set at €660,000 for the house owned by Robinson’s brother. 

Victoria House Victoria House in Ballina, the site of the planned presidential centre. Source: Mary Robinson Centre

Robinson was Ireland’s president for just under seven years and served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for five years. Recently, she has been outspoken about the dangers of climate change, producing podcasts and books calling for greater action to be taken on the issue. 

The centre will chronicle and highlight the career of Robinson. 

“We hope it will provide a national model for honoring and building on the contribution of significant civic figures in the country,” Chief Executive of Mayo County Council Peter Hynes said. 

Emer Gilvarry, the Chair of the Victoria House Foundation – which has been raising money to fund the project – said: “We look forward to now creating a world-class centre for human rights, gender equality and climate change, exploring the life’s work and legacy of Mary Robinson in her childhood home here in Ballina.”

The council spokesperson said that more details will be released in the coming weeks. 

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