Opposition to library closures mounts

The proposal to close fifteen libraries in the Belfast area has been met with strong opposition. Hazel Gilliland, who has been campaigning against the closures in Ballymacarrett told the The Socialist that, “the proposals would have a devastating effect. There are no facilities left in the community. Children will grow up without local access to books and the elderly will lose an important place to relax and enjoy a good book.”

Even the Library Authority’s own “Equality Impact Assessment” recognises what Hazel and many others have been saying. Areas with a higher than average young population and a higher than average elderly population will be particularly hard hit.

The “consultation” meetings in East Belfast with seventy people in Cregagh Library and over 50 people in Woodstock Library made clear the opposition that exists. The process was rightly seen as a sham with the areas effected not being given the opportunity to have a consultation meeting at their local library.

NIPSA have also organised several important protests including at Woodstock, which had a large turnout including many young parents with children and migrant workers with placards in their native tongue. These protests should be part of a broader campaign of people power to stop the closures.

Eleven councillors from the main political parties sit on the Library Authority board. Shamefully, board member and UUP East Belfast councillor, Jim Rodgers, who seems happy to see library closures in his own constituency, has not responded to Socialist Party representative Tommy Black’s call for him to publicly justify the cuts. The Socialist Party is actively campaigning on this issue, distributing leaflets and collecting lots of signatures against the closures.

If you want to help out in the campaign, contact Tommy Black on 07936360893.

 

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Debate – Sinn Fein, cuts and the unions

The following letter was printed in The Irish News on 28th November 2009.

Dear editor,
Jim Gibney criticises union leaders in the North for giving Sinn Fein their fair share of the blame for the austerity cuts of the Assembly, arguing that Sinn Fein have opposed cuts in public services and privatisation, as well as water charges (Irish News, 12/11/09).

Jim would do well to remember that it was Catriona Ruane who forced classroom assistants to take strike action in order to defend their pay, conditions and the front-line service they deliver. She now presides over a department which is closing and slashing funding to schools. All new builds on school grounds in Belfast are now done on the basis of PFI/PPP, thanks to Minister Ruane.