Neeson questions minister over library funding

Alliance Chief Whip and Carrickfergus Councillor, Sean Neeson, has called on Health Minister Tony Worthington to restore “essential” funding to Northern Ireland’s Library Services.

Alderman Neeson, who is a member of the Stormont Talks team and Northern Ireland Forum, urged Mr. Worthington to clarify his position in relation to the future of library funding.

The Carrickfergus Councillor, who raised a series of questions at a recent meeting of the Northrn Ireland Forum, also said that the issue of finance was of major importance to the people of Northern Ireland.

Alderman Neeson said: “As a former teacher, I recognise the crucial role of the library service. It provides a service to the pupils directly, but the development of a library in a school itself is equally important.

“However, I am concerned about any proposal to reduce the library service, which has faced very severe cut backs in recent times. Very often it is regarded as the Cinderella part of the system. This is wrong because it plays such an important role.

“I wonder if Mr. Worthington’s words, in which he said that libraries are one of the linchpins of cultural life, represent the true belief of the Minister or, more importantly, his Department.

“The Department of Education has proposed that education and library boards should reduce their expenditure on libraries in the coming year by an amount equivalent to 50 per cent of the budget available for the purchase of books.

“The library is the most used public service – it is used by more than half the population – and many of those who use it cannot afford to go anywhere else. And libraries provide resources for visually impaired people which they cannot get elsewhere. That is a desperately important aspect.

“And now the people of Northern Ireland must ask Mr. Worthington if the Government is serious when they publicly proclaim the benefits and advantages of the library system in Northern Ireland. The responsibility rests quite clearly with Tony Worthington.”

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