Lisburn picket is new chapter in campaign

Paul Givan
Paul Givan

Opponents of planned cuts in library hours mean to open a new chapter in their campaign by picketing Paul Givan’s Lisburn constituency office.

Libraries fall into Lisburn man Mr Givan’s brief as Communities Minister and his home city’s branch is one of 14 facing cuts to its hours under Libraries NI proposals.

Following weekend protests outside branches, the Hands Off Our Libraries Campaign’s Sean Burns said protesters meant to picket the Castle Street office of Lagan Valley MLA Mr Givan, whose own local library he described as being “on the chopping block”.

The Star contacted Mr Givan’s constituency office for comment but at time of going to press none had been forthcoming.

In recent months the DUP minister’s party colleague, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, said he was “bitterly disappointed” at moves to reduce Lisburn’s opening hours from 54 to 45 a week by November this year.

Mr Givan himself is on the record, following the recent announcement of a £2.1m Communities Department investment in extending Coleraine Library (also facing opening hours cuts), as saying: “I am keen to make sure that libraries continue to play an important role in Northern Ireland. They offer access to information and learning for all.

“Libraries also provide a shared space and are highly valued by the entire community.”

Opened at Linenhall Street 10 years ago, Lisburn City Library already suffered cuts as recently as last October, when weekly opening hours were reduced from 57 to 54, and Finaghy Library, where opening hours were last year increased from 48 to 50, now likewise faces a reduction to 45 hours.

Mr Burns and the Hands Off Our Libraries Campaign report universal opposition to cuts in all affected areas.

Libraries NI Chief Executive Irene Knox said previously it had no choice but to cut hours.

“This is not the ideal situation,” she said. “However, we must plan for and consider our budget.”

Public consultation on the prposed cuts closes on July 17; people are invited to complete a questionnaire, available at any of the affected libraries or online at www.librariesni.org.uk.