MEMBERS OF Mayo County Council have voted to purchase the childhood home of former president Mary Robinson in Ballina for use as Ireland's first presidential library.
Only two of the 30 councillors, Frank Durcan and Gerry Ginty (both Independents) voted against a proposal to purchase the riverside property when the issue came up for decision at the monthly meeting of the authority.
Councillor Durcan complained that as far as the people of Mayo are concerned the project "is going to be a complete white elephant with 90 per cent of the Robinson archive material going to be located at NUIG (Galway City).”
Meanwhile, Councillor Ginty slated the library as "a vanity project that does not have the support of anything like the majority of people in Ballina."
Councillors stipulated that that the authority's contribution should not exceed €1.5 million and that the purchase be funded centally from capital accounts with no impact whatsoever on the delivery of essential services in Ballina Municipal District.
Following the vote by members, Peter Hynes, council chief executive, rejected claims of "a vanity project" stating that the venture is "educational, an attempt to build on the legacy of someone who has made a global contribution on two areas of vital improtance - climate change and womens' leadership."
Mr. Hynes explained that digitising of the Robinson archive will be completed in partnership with NUIG.
The project - a €5.1 million venture in total - may be ready to go to tender by the end of this year or early next year, the council chief executive said.