26 January 2011

Irish Centre gets just five minutes from the Tories to make the case against closure as 6,000 sign petition and Gabriel Byrne warns of “devastation”

Tory H&F Council is giving the Irish Cultural Centre a paltry five minutes at this evening's council meeting to makes its case against closure. The centre will be presenting a petition signed by a massive 5,805 people who live, work or study in Hammersmith and Fulham.

By getting over 5,000 signatures on the petition, the centre bought itself the right to speak at the meeting – without it, the Tories wouldn’t have given them even a minute (let alone a whole five!) so well done to everyone who signed the petition.

The duplicitous council is trying to renege on an agreement with the centre to extend its lease to 2017; instead they want to sell it off next April. The centre is asking the council to reconsider or at least to extend the lease to 2017 to give them time to raise the £2.2 million sale price.

The council will make its final decision at a Cabinet meeting on 7 February and we'll be watching closely.

Meanwhile, acclaimed Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has warned that selling off the centre “would be a devastation for Irish culture in Britain. We must by all means prevent this, not only for this generation alone but for those who follow.”

And the Irish Post tells the story of 51-year-old Margaret Joyce, who can’t read or write. The centre reads her mail for her and assists with form-filling and paperwork. Ms Joyce says, “I am in there all the time as the staff help me with my letters. They read them for me and help with my housing paperwork and my benefits. What stranger in the council will sit with me and do that? I don’t know what I will do if the centre is no longer there it will have a huge effect on me.”

In a letter with the petition, chairman Jim O'Hara explains that the centre offers a wide range of programmes to Irish people, the elderly and many other diverse local communities, and over 16 years has acquired a national and international reputation for excellence in arts and education.

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