Sligo libraries face closure due to council staff cuts

County associated with WB Yeats may lose two of its three libraries if staff cuts go ahead

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney has been urged to rethink the Government’s attitude to local authority debt. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The chief executive of Sligo County Council has warned that he may be forced to close two of the county’s three branch libraries.

Ciarán Hayes said that with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government demanding a 42 per cent reduction in staff, he had been left with “no options” .

The announcement comes amid growing criticism of the “lip service” being paid to the arts in a county associated with WB Yeats. Hundreds of people yesterday signed an online petition urging the council to keep open the three libraries, in Sligo, Ballymote and Tubbercurry.

Mr Hayes said: “I am forced to adhere to the financial plan agreed with the department.”


He added that the council had reduced its workforce by 37 per cent, or 237 people, since 2008, but that the department required a 42 per cent cut in staff numbers to improve the council’s finances.


Mr Hayes, who last week met the secretary general and the assistant secretary of the department to discuss the financial plan, said: “We are looking at all the permutations, but I do not want to raise false expectations. It may be one or two libraries which will close.”

Writer Brian Leyden, a former writer-in-residence at Sligo Central Library, said the staffing shortages argument was "not good enough" and questioned the local authority's commitment to the arts.

“I am shocked and upset and annoyed,” said Mr Leyden, who added that lip service was being paid to the county’s literary tradition. While the Model arts centre and the Hawk’s Well had been established to support artists, he added, artists were in fact providing services free to support the institutions.


Martin Enright

, the president of the Yeats Society, also expressed concern, saying: “The mark of a civilised society is its library. This has been the case for thousands of years.”

Mr Enright said that libraries were more than a repository for books and were increasingly being used by retired and unemployed people who availed of digitised services.

Sligo Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry urged the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney, to rethink the Government's attitude to local authority debt and to bear in mind the different levels of revenue from rates available to councils.

“Local authorities owe over €4 billion,” he said. “But a council like Fingal, which is in the unique position of being beside Dublin Airport, is in a different situation to Sligo, which now has 50 empty retail units in the centre of town.”

Sligo County Council has confirmed that its library in Sligo town will close on Monday but said this was the latest in a series of “rolling closures” at Sligo’s branch libraries because of staffing difficulties.

Mr Hayes said a decision would be made this week, but it was likely that one library, possibly two, would be closed.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland