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Review of Robinson Centre plans revealed

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DECISION TAKEN?Mary Robinson’s archive will now be fully located at NUI Galway.

Áine Ryan

FORMER President Mary Robinson’s decision not to avail of a €1 million-plus tax break for her archive has been welcomed by a Fine Gael county councillor who had criticised aspects of the bequest to the people of Ballina and the country.
Whether the Mary Robinson Centre will still be located at her former family home in Ballina, now owned by her brother, remains a matter of speculation as a review of the entire project by the Victoria House Foundation continues. However, a source close to the project said that great optimism remains that all partners are fully committed to the project. The house was included in the overall project budget at a price of €665,000.
Speaking to The Mayo News last night, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said the Board of the Victoria House Foundation’s decision to house ‘the archive in existing facilities of NUIG made financial sense, and there was no reason why the collection could not [on occasion] be displayed and utilised in Ballina’.
“The foundation and NUIG can still proceed with plans to create a visitor facility and educational centre in Ballina. The local authority owns a number of buildings, including the Jackie Clarke Library, Civic Offices and the Ballina Public Library in the town that could be used for this centre, and eliminate the need to purchase a building specifically for this project right away.
“By all means, if there is an opportunity to acquire a building in the future that presents good value for money, so be it. But the Mary Robinson Centre can have a professional and impressive presence in Ballina, and can operate at better value for money now by utilising existing local authority resources,” he said.

Commitment to Ballina
AFTER a meeting of the Board of Victoria House Foundation over the weekend it was confirmed the archive will now be housed at NUIG, obviating significant archival costs for the project but still affording the project access to the collection.
Importantly, the board and its project partners, Mayo County Council and NUIG, have reiterated their ‘commitment to the vision to use Mary Robinson’s legacy at a location in Ballina to inspire and foster personal leadership in the service of promoting human rights, gender equality and women’s leadership’.
“For the Victoria House Foundation, the core of this vision continues to be the tremendous gift of Mary Robinson’s archive to the west of Ireland, most particularly for its scholarly value, and the opportunity to create academic and tourism activity,” a statement by the board confirmed last night (Monday).  
It also confirmed Mary Robinson that had reiterated at the meeting that she ‘does not intend to avail of any tax credit that might be available to her under section 1003’.
The Mary Robinson archive had been accepted by the Government under Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which allows 80 percent of the value to be written off as tax relief. It has been widely reported that the archive was valued by Mealy Auctioneers, on behalf of project partner Mayo County Council, at €2.5 million. However, the board was told on Saturday last that the Revenue Commissioners has confirmed its valuation of €4.65 million, stating that it was ‘of the utmost importance both nationally and internationally to an Irish and world audience of scholars and academics’.
The act stipulates market value be based on the lesser assessment, which, in this case, would result in an overall tax credit for the donor, if accepted, of €1.2 million.