Mass civil disobedience may in the end be the only way to curtail the raft of cuts impacting on people’s lives, Eamonn McCann has said.,
The veteran civil rights campaigner was speaking to the Journal during a protest outside the Central Library over planned cuts totalling £1.4m to the service’s budget.
The move is expected to result in a raft of changes including shorter opening hours, temporary closures because of staffing, a recruitment freeze, possible loss of all non-permanent staff and current staff being redirected to help out at other libraries when necessary.
It will mean all five libraries in Derry shutting down over the Christmas fortnight, according to Libraries NI.
Mr McCann said: “One of the reasons we are here is because there are quite swingeing cuts to the library service and elsewhere in local amenities, without a word about it almost.
“Hardly anybody seems to know what’s happening. £1.4m cutbacks and the chief executive of Libraries NI explained last week in very clear terms what this is going to mean: no cover for holidays, no cover for sickness, etc, etc.
“If you come into this library in Foyle Street after 3pm you won’t get a seat in any of the computer terminals where you get large numbers of students and people filling out applications. These are sort of community centres.
“We are also here to say there should be resistance and protest to every cut that comes along. A Labour government is not going to change things, the one thing that has got any hope of success will be people coming out and protesting.
“I believe myself that in the end this is going to need mass social disobedience.
“We’re not there yet, people aren’t ready for it because people might think it’s a bit wild, but it’s my conviction that before this thing is out if we are serious about pursuing it, it is going to take more militant actions. Talking about it in Assemblies, parliaments across the water, councils that’s grand, but it will only work if it is linked to things happening in the real world, to what is happening on the streets.”
Wendi McCloskey from People Before Profit added: “The libraries are fascinating places. Come to it any time of the day, you have older people coming in, it’s a social outlet for them; during the later morning, early afternoon there’s lots of people looking online for jobs,filling out applications, printing out applications and then of course in the afternoon you have the young people coming in. It gives them a safe place to hang out and keeps them off the street as well.
“The Central Library is one of the most used libraries and it does have a vital role to play in the community of Derry and to cut it would be an absolute disgrace.”