PAYING TRIBUTE The Mary Robinson Centre is to be established at Victoria House, the birthplace of the former President.
Ballina to honour Mary Robinson
SHE may have lit that symbolic candle in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin to reach out to the millions of Irish diaspora, or travelled the world as the High Commissioner for Human Rights but Taoiseach Enda Kenny is delighted that Mary Robinson came home to Mayo to launch her memoir, ‘Everybody Matters’.
Indeed, last night’s launch in her home town of Ballina was made doubly significant by the earlier announcement of a new Mary Robinson Centre, to be established in her birthplace, Victoria House, situated on the banks of the River Moy. The centre, which is the brainchild of Mayo County Council and Ballina Town Council, will incorporate a Visitor Centre and an academic research centre.
Speaking last night, Enda Kenny observed: “Home in so many ways is what makes us who we are and it’s wonderful for the people here to have Mary, Nick and the family home.”
And, unsurprisingly, he left his prepared script to say that Sam Maguire would hopefully be coming home to Mayo too very soon
To a packed theatre in the state-of-the-art Ballina Arts Centre, Enda Kenny noted that personal and public love merge in this book, which is underpinned by Mary Robinson’s characteristic convictions about justice, truth, freedom, dignity, respect, human and civil rights.
“This is the memoir of an Ambassador from and a citizen of the ‘Republic of Conscience’. Everybody Matters is not just an excellent title of an extraordinary book it is the philosophy by which Mary Robinson lives and works …” he continued.
He said this ‘beautifully written and brilliantly observed’ book managed to be haunting, brave, disturbing, uncomfortable, reassuring, illuminating and also very funny, while also revealing an innate humility.
Mr Kenny suggested that the book be required reading, particularly for the under 40s.
“In particular, in our schools and universities, where I believe there needs to be new moves on teaching others knowledge to look again at teaching our children and young people not just to learn but to think. And to do so critically, independently and imaginatively. In a way that involves not just their rights but their responsibilities, what they can do for others, what they can do for their community, their country, their world,” Enda Kenny said.
Addressing that iconic term, Mná na hÉireann, which she used in her inaugural speech as president, he said: “I know a woman who came home from London by coach and boat so she could say to her own children, in time, that she voted for Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson.”
He continued: “Mná na hEireann might never have called themselves that before but they knew who they were and they knew what they were and they came out in force to put one of their own in the Áras. And by that I don’t mean gender alone. I mean someone who incorporated their values. Someone who spent their life and career defending the dignity of the individual, promoting their rights, reminding them of their responsibilities as individuals and as part of the human family. Someone who made equality not just an issue or a headline but who made it a human and civil right in this country.”
“This book shows clearly Mary’s belief that everybody does indeed matter and that what we do now, the decisions we take now, may well decide not just the quality of life for future generations but whether those generations will even exist in the future on this planet at all,” he remarked.
Last night’s proceedings were opened by the Director of the Ballina Arts Centre, Seán Walsh. He said Mary Robinson had dedicated her life to social justice and was ‘fearless’ in her fight for human rights throughout the world.
After the official launch by Enda Kenny, veteran broadcaster and journalist, Olivia O’Leary interviewed Mary Robinson. The former president spoke first about the beautiful choral service in the cathedral the previous night marking the launch. She also thanked Enda Kenny for his ‘thoughtful’ words.
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