Robinson home open to public

 

New centre to honour former Irish president:THE BIRTHPLACE in Ballina, Co Mayo, of former president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson is to be transformed into a visitor centre and research facility in the fields of human rights and women’s leadership.

Victoria House, on the banks of the river Moy, is to open to the public by the end of 2014.

Mrs Robinson is to make her complete archive available to the centre, which will also include an academic research facility. The latter will be supported by NUI Galway and will focus on research and education in the fields of human rights and women’s leadership.

Details of what has been described as an “exciting new development for the west” were revealed yesterday evening when Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched Mrs Robinson’s new book, Everybody Matters, at a function in Ballina Arts Centre.

A feature of the launch, which was attended by more than 300 people, was Mary Robinson in conversation with broadcaster Olivia O’Leary.

Mrs Robinson has warmly supported the visitor centre initiative, which came about following an approach by Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council to the Robinson family.

She said: “The people of Mayo and the west have taught me over the years the true meaning and spirit of Meitheal and have always been hugely supportive of my journey.

“I am delighted to respond to this initiative to ensure that my archive benefits Ballina and future generations.”

The project will involve the refurbishment of Victoria House, a protected 19th-century Georgian house, and the construction of an annex to the building. Parts of the house will be restored to their condition at the time of Mary Robinson’s birth in 1944. The property, which has been in the Bourke family for generations, is being made available for the project by the owner, Mary’s brother Adrian Bourke.

Mayo county manager Peter Hynes and the mayor of Ballina, Willie Nolan, have both welcomed what they described as “an opportunity for Mayo to create a centre of national and international importance in Mary Robinson’s hometown”.

A group of Shell to Sea protesters picketed last night’s function. They carried placards that asked the former president: “What about human rights on your doorstep?” and heckled the Taoiseach as he arrived for the launch.