Union to ballot over Longford-Westmeath library plan

Longford and Westmeath to merge?

Union to ballot over Longford-Westmeath library plan
By Liam Cosgrove

Longford County Council is to hold a special meeting possibly as early as this Friday to discuss proposed plans to amalgamate Longford and Westmeath library services.

Officials from trade union, IMPACT, have claimed the proposed amalgamation would leave either Longford or Westmeath without a county librarian.

Up to fifty staff in both counties are in the process of balloting on industrial action over proposals which would see libraries in both counties managed by one local authority.

Longford County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry Warnock confirmed he had granted a request to hold a special meeting after fielding a request from Cllr Peggy Nolan.

“It will be definitely in the next week because this is something I am totally, totally opposed to,” he said.

Cllr Nolan said she would also be calling on voluntary organisations to take to the streets of Longford “if needs be” to retain the present status quo.

The councillor said renewed talk of shared services coming on stream was akin to moves to refix fire services between both counties.

“All the time that decision was done,” she said in reference to the consolidation of fire services.

“But this has to stop now because if we allow this to happen we may as well turn off the lights and all head up to Mullingar. This stops now,” she said.

Fellow councillor Mae Sexton agreed, saying she would be raising the matter at yesterday's (Tuesday) monthly meeting of Longford Municipal District.

In a statement, IMPACT highlighted the importance of the library service.

“Local libraries are vital social hubs in rural and urban communities that have already lost shops, garda stations, post offices and other local amenities,” said union official Aisling Connolly.

“We can’t allow our thriving library system to be to be gutted on foot of a remote number-crunching exercise.”

It's expected the result of the ballot will be announced in early July when further clarity on the specific form of industrial action will be made known.