Mary Robinson: giving archive to NUIG will benefit Co Mayo

Presidential archive was originally to be housed in former family home in Ballina

Former president Mary Robinson has said she is “optimistic” that negotiations on the purchase of her former family home in north Mayo will succeed.

Speaking in Ballina, Mrs Robinson said that efforts by Mayo County Council to acquire Victoria House, where she was brought up in the town, were "moving forward".

She also said that criticism of her plans to house her presidential archive in the family home was a “bit painful”.

She said that such criticism came from “some” who did not realise how important it was for a town like Ballina to benefit from having a centre that could attract visitors and academics and could promote issues close to her heart such as human rights, women’s leadership and climate justice.


Late last year, the Victoria House Foundation confirmed that it was abandoning a plan to house Mrs Robinson’s archive in the proposed centre as part of a review of the project – then costed at between €6 million and €8 million.

Mrs Robinson said she would gift her archive to NUI Galway (NUIG) and would not avail of a tax credit of about €1.2 million for the donation.

Financial viability

Mrs Robinson explained that it became clear that there was a “difficulty” in the financial viability of building an annex alongside the family home to house the archive.

In the light of this, it seemed more appropriate and sensible to gift the entire archive to NUIG – benefiting "as much as possible" Ballina, Mayo and the west of Ireland generally.

Mrs Robinson said the detail of this was being worked on at the moment. The archive would be digitised in NUIG and would be accessible in the Ballina centre, as would any related exhibitions held by NUIG.

Mrs Robinson was responding to questions at a press briefing with former US senator George Mitchell, who was in Mayo to deliver the fourth annual Mary Robinson international human rights lecture on Thursday.

Mr Mitchell, who held talks in Dublin on Wednesday with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, also met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in Ballina.

Mayo father and daughter

Before his lecture, Mr Mitchell was introduced to Mayo father and daughter Michael and Aisling Gallagher.

Mr Gallagher's letter to former US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy-Smith expressing his sorrow over the Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins, was subsequently cited by then US president Bill Clinton.

Mr Gallagher, who now works with The Western People, had expressed the hope that his then 20-month-old daughter, Aisling, would not "grow up in a society which is constantly waiting for the next atrocity". His daughter is now in her second year of studying politics at the University of Limerick.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times