Mayo Council buys Mary Robinson’s childhood home for about €600k

Building to be turned into Mary Robinson Centre, a US-style presidential library

Former president Mary Robinson. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Former president Mary Robinson. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

Former President Mary Robinson’s childhood home in Ballina, Co Mayo, has been bought by Mayo County Council after years of negotiations.

Work is to begin in November this year on transforming Victoria House, which was owned by Ms Robinson’s brother Adrian Bourke, into the Mary Robinson Centre, a US-style presidential library.

It is understood the property sold for about €600,000.

Brendan Mulroy, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, told the Irish Times the purchase represented “a good day for Mayo”.

“Mary Robinson was the president of our country obviously, and being a Mayo woman, she made a big difference to the country as a whole, in challenging times,” he said.

“From Mayo County Council’s point of view, purchasing the house is a step forward and holding on to a piece of history at the same time.”

Mr Mulroy estimated that it had taken the council around five years to secure the purchase, for what will become Ireland’s first presidential library, similar to other institutions dedicated to ex-presidents in the US.

Almost two years ago, the council was understood to be offering around €510,000 for the property in which Ms Robinson grew up, and neighbouring offices, both of which were owned by Mr Bourke.

The council had been negotiating the price down at the time from an earlier asking price of €650,000.

The project is expected to cost more than €5 million, with the council committing €1.5million, the Government €2million and philanthropic sources making up the balance.

The cost will include digitising Ms Robinson’s presidential archive at NUI Galway.

Ms Robinson attracted some controversy by deciding to gift her papers to the university, rather than the future centre dedicated to her in her hometown Ballina.

Mary Robinson’s childhood home, Victoria House. Photograph: Google Maps
Mary Robinson’s childhood home, Victoria House. Photograph: Google Maps

The former president said at the time that there was a “difficulty” in the financial viability of building an annex alongside the family home to house her archive.

In a statement, Mayo County Council said contracts and paperwork for the purchase of Victoria House will be completed over the coming weeks, with construction on the Mary Robinson Centre expected to commence in November.

Peter Hynes, the council’s chief executive, said the project is of “significant importance for Ireland in general and for County Mayo in particular.”

“We hope it will provide a national model for honouring and building on the contribution of significant civic figures in the country,” he added.

Emer Gilvarry, chairwoman of the Victoria House Foundation, praised the support of many “locally, nationally and internationally” for the project.

“As a Board, together with our partners at Mayo County Council and NUI Galway, 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,” she said.