Irish Cultural Centre faces closure

Greenhalgh: reneged on agreement

I popped into the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith on my home. To my shame, it is the first time that I have visited in the 12 years that I have lived here. I promise to make up for it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it is the only Irish cultural centre of its kind in the country. It was opened in 1995 by former Irish Tánaiste (Deputy PM), Dick Spring. It is is purpose-built venue that houses a cafe, an art gallery, a large hall and some meeting rooms.  In short, it is a valuable community resource and it is now under threat of closure by Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

Managers of the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith had asked for its lease to be renewed until 2017 – as was previously promised – to give them time to raise the asking price of around £2.3m. But the council now plans to terminate the lease in March next year, when it will invite bids from further afield if the centre is unable to raise the cash.

In fact the lease on the building doesn’t expire until 2017. The Council is reneging on its obligation. The Irish Times says

“The board signed the lease and returned it to the council in January 2010 and nothing more was heard until the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, Stephen Greenhalgh, informed the Irish Ambassador to Britain, Bobby McDonagh, and Mr O’Hara in June 2010 that the council would not be proceeding with the lease after all due to financial issues,” said the centre. In a letter supporting the petition, Mr O’Hara said the centre had built up an international reputation as a place of excellence for arts and education, along with providing other services to the Irish community in London.

As regular readers of this blog will know, Hammersmith & Fulham Council is Scameron’s favourite local authority; its slash and burn model being the template for the current cuts in public services that are taking place around the country. It would be dishonest for the Council to claim that these sales are anything but ideological, given the Dear Leader’s plans for the boroughThe planned sale of Palingswick House to The West London Free School betrays their ideological commitment to what is best described as a social engineering project. The Fulham Chronicle says

Fulham Town Hall will also go, along with the Distillery Lane Children’s Centre in Hammersmith, a community building in Bulwer Street, Shepherd’s Bush, the Askham Family Centre in Shepherd’s Bush and the Greswell Centre in Fulham, currently home to Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability.

Leases on several other will also not be renewed, with the council relocating staff and handing the buildings back to their owners.

The Council is meeting on Monday, 7 Feb to discuss the sale of these buildings and an anti-cuts demo is taking place that evening.

The actor Gabriel Byrne is  interested in buying the building from the council.

While the French state spends 1% of its national budget on arts and culture, the figure is much less in the UK. President Sarkozy actually announced a 2.7% increase in funding for arts and culture. While the Tory-led government has cut funding.

The Council claims that it needs to sell the Irish Cultural Centre in order to pay off its £133 million debt. I’d say this country owes a debt to the Irish people.  They helped to build this country.

You can sign the petition against the proposed sale here.

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Filed under Cuts, Hammersmith & Fulham, London

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