Republic of Ireland news

Concerns raised over proposed Mary Robinson Centre in Co Mayo

It has been claimed the Mary Robinson Centre in Co Mayo could cost €8.5m. Picture by Julien Behal/PA

CONCERNS have been raised about the cost and location of a centre to accommodate a vast archive of papers belonging to former President Mary Robinson.

Estimates suggest the proposed library in Mrs Robinson's home town of Ballina, Co Mayo could cost almost €8.5 million to develop.

Concerns have also been expressed about the fact that papers of a former president will not be housed in existing archive departments in universities.

Traditionally the papers of former heads of state have been donated to University College Dublin or Trinity College Dublin.

An investigation by RTÉ Prime Time last night claimed it could cost €8.5m to develop the separate facility.

Grants of around €3.5m have been committed by the Department of Arts and Heritage and Mayo County Council, with NUI Galway acting as the academic partner.

The council has also been officially designated as an institution to which donors can contribute items of heritage value, which would entitle them to tax relief.

The programme said Mrs Robinson had controversially applied for tax relief for making the donation.

Peader Tóibin, chairman of the Oireachtas arts and heritage scrutiny committee, told RTE the establishment of a separate presidential library in Ireland was unprecedented.

"At our next meeting I will be putting it to the committee that this is a serious concern and I will be asking the committee for their backing to send a letter to those three groups so they will come before us and shed light on the process they are involved in," he said.

"We just want to make sure that the money is spent properly.

"We simply want to make sure that the state is not on the hook for money into the future and we don't have a crisis like we had in the Picture Palace in Galway and the only way to do that is to create transparency and that is the objective of the committee."

Arts minister Heather Humphreys last month defended spending a further €1m on the Picture Palace arthouse cinema, saying she had inherited a project with significant cost overruns but could not let it "sit in a shell" in Galway city centre.

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