Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams condemns decision by the Libraries Board

8 July, 2010 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has strongly condemned a decision today by Libraries NI to go ahead with the closure of Andersonstown Library.

Mr. Adams and Paul Maskey MLA this morning met the Libraries Board to outline the extent of public opposition in Andersonstown to their plans to close the local Library.

The two Sinn Fein representatives, and a local user of the Library, made a very strong case for the retention of library services in Andersonstown.

Speaking this afternoon Mr. Adams said:

“This decision by the Board is wrong and discriminates against the people of Andersonstown. It is at odds with sensible decisions the Board took in respect of other libraries, most notably Woodstock and Ballyhackamore.

The people of Andersonstown are entitled to the same equality of service in respect of Library facilities as other areas.

An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) carried out as part of the consultation process for the Board highlighted the fact that “Andersonstown library is unique in that it caters for a wide Irish speaking population.” The EQIA went on to say; “Libraries NI should acknowledge the need to preserve a high level of support for the Irish speaking community in west Belfast.”

The Boards decision today means that it is rejecting the recommendation of the EQIA and is turning its back on local Irish language users.

The Board has also ignored the representations of a wide a range of local community groups, a petition from 2,000 residents and has disregarded the views of the elected representatives of the area.

I believe that the Board’s decision to close the library will attract widespread community opposition, including likely legal action.

It had the opportunity today to review its earlier decision in light of new information. It has rejected that opportunity”.

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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