The Mary Robinson Centre, Ireland’s first Presidential Archive, will be located at the former Irish President’s birthplace, Victoria House on Emmet Street, Ballina, which overlooks the River Moy. The Centre, which is supported by Mayo County Council, is run in academic partnership with the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUI Galway) and will comprise a museum, archive, research facility, educational centre and events centre.
The centre will formally establish the presence of a second third level institution within the town (the Newman Institute being the first), attracting students, academics and human rights activists from all around the world. It will also draw tourists eager to get a glimpse of some of the artefacts contained within the Presidential Archive, which has been gifted to the Mayo people by the former President.
The beautiful house will be restored to its original condition, as it would have been in when Mary Robinson was born in 1944, with a new annex alongside to house the functions of the centre. Central to the vison for the building will be the return to the former President’s childhood home of the symbolic light that stood in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin.
The aim of the Mary Robinson Centre is to establish a world class facility, where Mary Robinson’s legacy is used to inspire and foster personal leadership in the service of promoting human rights, gender equality, women’s leadership and climate justice. The centre will celebrate Mary Robinson’s life story and experience in order to inspire and underpin personal leadership with a particular focus on human rights.
In addition, the Presidential Archive, which contains an extensive collection of personal papers will be catalogued and stored in perpetuity, in environmentally controlled conditions, to be made available to the public including scholars and students. The centre will be maintained as an archive, educational facility and museum for the benefit of the people of Mayo, Ireland and internationally. A programme of events and activities relating to issues of human rights, gender equality, women’s leadership and climate justice,will be devised and implemented.
Though the building will not be complete until 2018, the Centre is already very active in the community, and has recently organised a programme of engaging outreach sessions with secondary schools in the region, designed to bring human rights to life and engage the students of today – and leaders of tomorrow – with the importance of human rights. The sessions are designed to connect with the students’ geography and history programmes and examine patterns of migration – from Ireland’s famine to the Syrian migration crisis – and their implications for Europe.