Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams and Maskey to meet Libraries Board

7 July, 2010 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams and Paul Maskey MLA will lead a delegation tomorrow, Thursday, to meet the Board of Libraries NI to press it to reverse its earlier decision to close the Andersonstown Library.

Mr. Adams said: “The people of Andersonstown are entitled to the same equality of service in respect of Library facilities as other areas. The Andersonstown Library is a vital asset to the local community which last year was used by over 30,000 people.

The decision by the Board was wrong and discriminatory.

Unlike the discussion it had on other Libraries, most notably Woodstock and Ballyhackamore libraries, the Board did not have all of the pertinent facts when discussing Andersonstown.

Very clear public opposition to any closure was made during the consultation process. Local community groups, including the Greater Andersonstown Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership expressed their support for the Library. And a submission from Sinn Fein by Paul Maskey MLA was also given to the consultation process. None of these important and relevant facts were put to the Board’s meeting.

In addition, I don’t believe that sufficient importance was placed on the use of the library by local Irish language users. An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) carried out as part of the consultation process for the Board highlights the fact that “Andersonstown library is unique in that it caters for a wide Irish speaking population.” The EQIA goes on to say; “Libraries NI should acknowledge the need to preserve a high level of support for the Irish speaking community in west Belfast.”

In the same report the importance of the Woodstock Library for the Polish speaking community is recorded and it argues that this is one reason why the proposed closure of Woodstock should be reviewed. The Board decided to keep Woodstock open.

Sinn Féin believes that there is overwhelming evidence to support library provision in Andersonstown.

Cleary the existing building does not meet the standards of the 21st century nor can it hope to cater for the diverse uses which a modern library should provide for.

Paul Maskey has spoken to the Chief Executive about a number of alternatives, including co-locating the library within the vicinity of the existing library as an interim measure pending the provision of a long term enhanced library in Andersonstown.

Closure should not be an option. It would strip away a much need public service. Nor would the provision of a mobile library meet the needs of the community.”

Note to Editor:

Libraries NI proposes to close Andersonstown Library, despite widespread opposition from local public representatives, local library users, other members of the local community and the local newspaper.

After the proposal was accepted at a Board meeting on the 27th May 2010, Andersonstown Library was scheduled to close at the end of June 2010. This closure was postponed until 9th July 2010 following a meeting with Sinn Féin representatives to enable a deputation to petition the Board to withdraw the closure proposal.

There are alternative proposals to ensure library provision in the Andersonstown area which would win the support of the library users and local community and which did not form part of the original decision.

On 10th December 2009, the Board of Libraries NI approved a strategic review of library provision across the six counties, beginning with greater Belfast.

It was agreed that Libraries NI would undertake a public consultation about its strategic review. That consultation was held in the first quarter of 2010. Libraries NI have stated publicly that “in response to information obtained during the consultation process and public feedback received regarding the closures, the Libraries Board agreed that 4 of the libraries originally proposed for closure should remain open. The four libraries which will remain open are Ballyhackamore Cloughfern; Tullycarnet; and Woodstock.”

It appears that the Board was not furnished with copies of the responses to the consultation but received a report providing a summary. This did not quantify or identify the extent of the objections to the proposal to close Andersonstown.

MLA Paul Maskey contacted Irene Knox, the chief executive of Libraries NI and arranged to meet to ask for the proposal to close Andersonstown to be reconsidered.

A petition began which has so far gathered upwards of 2,000 signatories supporting the call to keep Andersonstown library open.

On Thursday 17th June, west Belfast MP Gerry Adams and local MLA Paul Maskey met with Dr David Elliot, chair of the Board of Libraries NI and Libraries NI chief executive Irene Knox. At that meeting, a number of points were put about steps which ought to have been taken by Libraries NI rather than the option of immediate closure of Andersonstown Library.

A decision was take by Libraries NI to postpone the closure until after the next meeting of the full Board on 8th July and also for a deputation to be permitted to address the Board on the subject.

A further follow-up visit to the Andersonstown area was facilitated in late June 2010 by MLA Paul Maskey for Irene Knox of Libraries NI. This was to help to garner further information for the Board of Libraries NI about one of the aspects of Sinn Féin’s proposals. This is to co-locate library resources to an alternative location within the immediate vicinity of the existing library on an interim basis pending the provision of long-term, enhanced library in the Andersonstown area.

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