Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mary Robinson establishes new visitor and research centre in Ballina in association with NUI Galway

Mary Robinson addressing guests in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway
Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, visited NUI Galway this weekend to mark the beginning of a new partnership with the University. Recent plans have been unveiled to establish a Mary Robinson Centre in the former President’s home town of Ballina, Co. Mayo. The Centre, supported by Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council will be established at Mary Robinson’s birthplace and will include both a Visitor Centre and an academic research centre, supported by NUI Galway and focused on scholarly research and education in the fields of Human Rights and Women’s Leadership.

Mary Robinson’s archive will be the centrepiece of the educational facility, and as academic partner to the project, NUI Galway will bring researchers and students from all over the world to Ballina to engage with the archive. NUI Galway is internationally recognised as a leader in the field of Human Rights and Gender research, and offers undergraduate degrees and Masters programmes in the area. The University will also advise on the cataloguing and making available of the extensive archive which is valued at over €2.5 million.

President Jim Browne of NUI Galway commented: “We at NUI Galway are delighted to have been invited to become involved in this project. We believe that the Mary Robinson Archive is very important for scholarship globally; for our region – it adds a truly unique piece of infrastructure to the knowledge capital of the West of Ireland; and for Ireland as a nation preserving the narrative of the life and work of probably the most significant figure to emerge from our country – a transformative figure of modern Ireland – Mary Robinson.”

The proposed Visitor Centre, which is set to open to the public by the end of 2014, will provide a unique cultural tourism resource for Mayo as visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about Mary Robinson’s life and work, including her early roots in Ballina. The project will involve the refurbishment of Victoria House, a protected 19th century Georgian house, together with the construction of an Annex to the house. Parts of the house will be recreated to its original condition at the time of Mary Robinson’s birth in 1944.

The property at Victoria House, which has been in the Bourke Family for generations, is being made available to the Centre by the owner, Mary’s brother Adrian Bourke, and will be leased in perpetuity.

Existing collections at the James Hardiman Library that will greatly encourage and engage with research and scholarship with the Robinson Archive include the Prof. Kevin Boyle Archive. Prof. Boyle was Professor of Law at University College Galway and founded the Irish Centre for Human Rights at then University College Galway. Prof. Boyle was a life-long advocate of Human Rights globally and was founding director of the international body Article 19, advocating for freedom of expression and religious tolerance and also later Director of the Centre for Human Rights at University of Essex. Prof. Boyle also served as advisor and speech writer for Mary Robinson for a period during her time as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Boyle papers are currently being catalogued at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway.

Mary Robinson’s archive is a vast collection illuminating the life and career of one of Ireland’s most distinguished public figures. The archive includes a library of books, and periodicals, Mary Robinson’s personal diaries, working files and detailed records of her career as a champion of human rights and women’s equality. Also included are numerous recordings and manuscripts from her time as President of Ireland.

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