27 January 2011

Tory council holds out slim hope for UK's only Irish Cultural Centre – eyes now on 7 Feb decision

At a passionate meeting last night, Tory H&F council confirmed it would be selling off the Irish Cultural Centre building by Hammersmith Broadway but council leader Stephen Greenhalgh held out some hope about the timing by asking how long it might take the centre to buy the building itself

Georgie Cooney, Conservative councillor for North End ward, was booed by the many people packed into the gallery when she argued for the sale of the centre. She said that being of Irish origin herself, she knew the Irish were a resilient folk and would pick themselves up again if the centre was sold. This patronising Uncle Tom comment didn’t go down well with the audience.

As matters stand, the Tories are trying to renege on an agreement with the centre to extend its lease to 2017, aiming to sell it off next April instead. Over six thousand local people have signed a petition asking for the lease to be extended as the council originally promised to give the centre time to raise £2 million to buy the building. Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has said selling off the centre “would be a devastation for Irish culture in Britain”.

Jim O’Hara, the centre’s chairman, told last night's meeting,“I was brought up with an old saying that a man’s word is his bond and I believe that the councillors would not see that as an out-moded concept”.

It would be great to see the Tories honour their promise and give the centre a realistic chance to raise the funds to stay open.

The final decision is due to be taken at a Cabinet meeting on 7 February.

Cooney: booed for being patronising

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