Mary Robinson abandons plans to store archive in Mayo family home

Former president says she will not avail of €1.2m tax relief for donation which will be given to NUI Galway

Mary Robinson has confirmed her archive will be ’gifted to NUIG, with Mayo County Council having full access to any part of the collection which is required to support the mission of the centre in Ballina’, it said.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Mary Robinson has confirmed her archive will be ’gifted to NUIG, with Mayo County Council having full access to any part of the collection which is required to support the mission of the centre in Ballina’, it said. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Former president Mary Robinson has said she will “gift” her archive to NUI Galway and will not avail of a tax credit of about €1.2 million for the donation.

The abandonment of plans to house the archive in Mrs Robinson’s former family home at Victoria House in Ballina is part of a review of the project, which was to have cost between €6 and €8 million.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the Victoria House Foundation board reiterated its commitment to the project which has been undertaken in partnership with NUI Galway (NUIG) and Mayo County Council.

Mrs Robinson has confirmed her archive will be “gifted to NUIG, with Mayo County Council having full access to any part of the collection which is required to support the mission of the centre in Ballina”, it said.

“Storage of the archive in Galway will obviate the need to duplicate expensive archival facilities in Ballina,”the foundation board statement said.

“Developing the centre around Mary’s childhood home remains the preferred option of the Victoria House Foundation and other options will also be explored as part of the current review of the project,”it said.

The review would be to concluded in the first quarter of 2017,the board said.

Earlier this month , Mrs Robinson’s brother Adrian Bourke resigned from the board, amid continuing negotiations over sale of the Robinson home, which he owns, for the centre.

The foundation said that the resignation took place as part of the project review, which was discussed at a board meeting in Ballina last Saturday .

Tax relief was also discussed at the meeting, and the foundation said that Mrs Robinson “reiterated” that “she does not intend to avail of any tax credit that might be available to her under section 1003”.

The Robinson archive was approved for donation by Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, the foundation said.

Tax relief for such donations of cultural value under section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 has to be considered by a selection committee, chaired by a Department of Arts and Heritage representative and involving State heritage and cultural institutions.

The Victoria House Foundation board said it was informed that the Revenue Commissioners had confirmed its valuation of the archive at €4.65 million, with its valuer reporting that it was “of the utmost importance both nationally and internationally to an Irish and world audience of scholars and academics”.

“Under Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, the market value is the lesser of the value placed by the donor and the value placed by the Revenue Commissioners,”the board explained.

“ In this case the value obtained by Mayo County Council and accepted by Mary Robinson was the lower figure of €2.5 million, and this figure was taken for the purposes of calculating the potential tax credit of €2 million,”it said.

“ Taking account of capital gains tax that may have arisen on the donation of the archive to the State, the net credit that could have arisen is estimated at €1.2 million,”it said.

The Foundation said that the cost of the project would now be lower than originally estimated, given that the archive would be handled by NUIG.

A percentage of the cost was to have come from State sources, with a pledge of €2 million from the Department of Arts and Heritage, a further pledge of €1.5 million from council funds, and tax relief from the archive donation. The Ireland Funds are also listed donors.

Mayo County manager Peter Hynes said a decision on local authority funding is now dependent on that review, and “as of now, we are committed to delivering the original objective”.

NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said that the university was honoured to accept the archive, which would “offer a fabulous resource to scholars of human rights, gender equality and women’s leadership all over the world”.

The project’s costs and transparency issued had been questioned by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibín who is chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts and Heritage. It is to hold a hearing on the project next month , and has asked Ms Humphreys, NUIG and Mayo County Council to attend.

Writing in The Irish Times in late October, Mr Hynes said that it was “not a vanity project”, and Mrs Robinson and her husband Nick had been “extremely sceptical” about the idea after it was first mooted by Ballina Town Council in 2008.

Mr Hynes recalled Mrs Robinson has said she “neither needed nor wanted her archive to be accommodated ‘in some form of mausoleum’,” and“it took several years of gentle and consistent persuasion to convince her to take the risk involved in breaking with the tradition of presidents donating their papers to conventional institutions such as the National Library, the National Archives or one of the national universities”.

The Victoria House Foundation said that stakeholders “reiterated their commitment to the vision to use Mary Robinson’s legacy at a location in Ballina to inspire and foster personal leadership in the service of promoting human rights, gender equality and women’s leadership”.

“The core of this vision continues to be the tremendous gift of Mary Robinson’s archive to the west of Ireland, most particularly for its scholarly value, and the opportunity to create academic and tourism activity,”it said in its statement.