Mary Robinson developing Ireland’s first presidential library

Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president, is developing Ireland’s first presidential library.

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The Mary Robinson Centre is expected to open in 2017 at her childhood home in Ballina, County Mayo, with an adjoining state-of-the-art archive and research facility. The Centre will be run as an academic partnership with National University of Ireland in Galway, as well as cooperative relationships with some of the more than 60 universities around the globe that have conferred honorary doctorates to Robinson.

Digitization of Robinson’s papers from her years as president, 1990-1997 (read about functions of the office in Ireland); United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, 1997-2002; as well as her earlier work as a barrister and member of the Irish Senate, is expected to be completed by the time the centre opens.

The €8.5 million project has all but the last €1 million of funding in place. Toward that end, Robinson will be the keynote speaker at the Irish American Partnership’s annual Nollaig na mBan (Woman’s Christmas) on Jan. 6, 2016, at the University Club of Washington, D.C. Register here.

The opening of the centre will be real boost to Ballina, which lies at the mouth of the River Moy and offers some of the finest salmon fishing in Ireland. The town is already home to The Jackie Clarke Collection, which includes artifacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa; plus rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from leaders of the 1916 Rising.

Is it possible America’s first woman president will join the international visitors who attend the grand opening of the Mary Robinson Centre?

Architect traveled from the Lee to the Mississippi

NEW ORLEANS–One of the Crescent City’s premier 19th century architects was a native of Cork city. Now, a new exhibition celebrates “An Architect and His City: Henry Howard’s New Orleans, 1837-1884.”

Henry Howard, circa 1870s.

Howard sailed from Ireland to New York in 1836, moving to Louisiana the following year, not long after fellow Irishman and architect James Gallier Sr. arrived in the city. At the time, New Orleans was America’s third largest city, a bustling trade hub, albeit one driven by slave labor.

Howard studied at the the Cork Mechanic’s Institute before his emigration. In New Orleans and the surrounding area he designed some 240 homes, factories, churches, orphanages and commercial buildings through the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The exhibit runs through April 3, 2016, at The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street in the French Quarter. There’s also a new companion book, “Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect.”

Here’s a story and photos about the book from And some background on the history of the Irish in New Orleans.

How a 19th century anti-Irish Catholic voting law helped unseat modern Bangladeshi Muslim mayor near London

Earlier this year an English judge used an obscure section of 19th century election law to unseat the mayor of Tower Hamlets, a borough of London.

The Guardian tells how the term “undue spiritual influence” was passed down from the 1880s, when it was intended “specifically to constrain the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy on what the English establishment took to be the ignorant and impressionable minds of the Irish proletariat,” according to the story.

There’s great background here on the 1872-1892 period in Ireland.

In April, a modern judge was “entirely unashamed to use a law that was developed to subdue Irish Roman Catholics and then apply it to a contemporary religious minority that is suffering from a very similar brew of racism and hostility to what is seen as their foreign religious practises, i.e. Islam.”

Read the story.

“Fresh Start” announced for Northern Ireland

The British and Irish governments have announced a new political accord to overcome various crises in Northern Ireland. The North’s two main parties,  the DUP and Sinn Féin, are backing the agreement.

The 68-page agreement, entitled A Fresh Start for Northern Ireland, follows 10 weeks of intensive negotiations. Among the highlights, the deal:

  • reduces the corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland to 12.5 percent by 2018, in line with the Republic of Ireland;
  • provides and additional £500 million to tackle issues unique to Northern Ireland, including efforts on the removal of peace walls;
  • creates new obligations for the N.I. parties to end paramilitarism, and also targets organized and cross-border crime;
  • addresses the issue of flags and parades in the future, but NOT how to deal with the past;
  • reforms the Stormont Assembly, including its size, the number of departments and the use of petitions of concern as a form of opposition.

Read the full agreement.

First-day coverage from:

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Former soldier arrested for 1972 Bloody Sunday killings

UPDATE: A petition calling for soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday to be granted immunity from prosecution has gained more than 20,000 supporters in three days, The Irish News reports. A protest march against the police investigation of the former paratroopers is also being planned in London for later in November.

ORIGINAL POST: A former British soldier has been arrested in connection with the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings of 14 unarmed civil rights protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland. See coverage from:

Poll finds only modest support for United Ireland

A new RTÉ/BBC poll shows two thirds of respondents living in the Republic of Ireland favor political reunification of the island within their lifetime, but just under one third of those surveyed in Northern Ireland share the view.

The percentages drop to 36 percent and 13 percent, respectively, when the question of a united Ireland was framed as happening in the “short-medium term.”

Catholics living in Northern Ireland favor reunification by 27 percent, compared to just 3 percent among Protestants.

The survey also found that 74 percent of respondents living in the Republic had a “very or fairly positive” view of the 1916 Rising leaders, while just 25 percent of those in the North answered likewise.

The full survey also includes question about taxation, gay marriage and abortion. The results were part of an RTÉ special broadcast called Ireland’s Call, which can viewed here.

Ireland ranks 10th in “Prosperity Index”

Ireland ranks 10th in the 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index, an assessment of 142 countries based on economy, enterprise and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital.

Ireland moved two places higher than last year, matching the 10th place ranking of 2012 but shy of the ninth place finish in 2009. The latest ranking puts Ireland ahead of 11th-ranked United States and behind ninth place Finland.

The rankings are based on 90 variables across the eight major categories. Here’s the detailed report for Ireland.

Also, a recent European Central Bank report shows that Irish citizens lost more of their personal wealth than those from any other Eurozone country in the aftermath of the financial crash, says the Irish Independent. The ECB report covers the years 2009 to 2013.

Ireland debates abortion ahead of 2016 election

Al Jazeera America has published a well-reported, two-part series about the growing abortion debate in Ireland.

Once the ultimate taboo, all but banished from newspapers and polite discussion, abortion is becoming an increasingly ubiquitous talking point in Ireland. … As Ireland prepares for its next general election in early 2016, the question of abortion rights is shaping up as a major fight in a year that has already seen seismic social change since the legal acceptance of same-sex marriage in May.

Read Part 1  /  Read Part 2

“Quiet Man” star Maureen O’Hara dies at 95

Dublin-born actress Maureen O’Hara, co-star with John Wayne in “The Quiet Man,” has died at 95. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1946 and held dual Irish-U.S. citizenship, according to The Irish Times, which has way more coverage than I can provide here.

O’Hara wrote a 2004 autobiography, ‘Tis Herself. She died in Boise, Idaho, which sure is a long way from Cong, County Mayo, location for the 1952 movie.

IRA of the Troubles “well beyond recall” report says

A special three-member panel reviewing paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland released its report 20 October 2015.

The report found the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) “remains in existence in a much reduced form” and that an IRA army council is still operating, The Irish Times reports. More coverage from The New York Times.

“PIRA of the Troubles is well beyond recall,” the report says. “It is our firm assessment that PIRA’s leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means. … The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state or its representatives.”

Read the report.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers commissioned the independent assessment of paramilitary organisations and organized crime in the six-county province in September to avert the collapse of the power-sharing government at Stormont.