A group of parishioners have expressed fears that they will not have access their parish centre for bingo and other activities when it reopens following maintenance works.
Politicians in the Galliagh area of Derry have now moved to try and allay the concerns of residents after a meeting with parish representatives regarding the future of St Joseph’s Parish Hall in the heart of the estate.
A ‘Save Galliagh Parish Centre’ Facebook page has been set up to raise awareness of the concerns of local people.
A representative from the campaign told the ‘Journal’ they felt “angry” after hearing reports that the centre may not be accessible for a range of community activities such as bingo, dancing and music classes, children’s programmes, shows and other events.
The representative said local people would have no problem with a reported planned transfer of the centre to a religious order, as long as they could still use it.
“That centre has been part of the community here in Galliagh for 40 years,” she said.
“It is the heart of the community and we just want fair play. Just let us use the centre - that is all we are asking for.”
It is understood the centre has been closed for the past three months to facilitate electrical and heating works.
The ‘Journal’ has attempted to contact the parish but has not received a direct response.
Specific details about the plans for the centre have yet to be confirmed, however SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney and Sinn Fein Colr. Tony Hassan have issued a joint statement after meeting with the parish finance committee and parish priest to discuss the plans they have to take the centre forward.
The councillors said the plans represented “a fantastic opportunity” to enhance the usage of the centre.
Colr. Tierney said: “The parish had no option but to close the centre because of health and safety concerns and they are now prepared to spend a substantial amount of money repairing the hall before it reopens. After reopening, the hall will have a new focus, one which will help tackle the real life issues facing this community and I believe that local people will reap the benefits of that.”
He added: “As I understand it the parish is preparing for the Friars to take over the running of the hall once repairs have been carried out. The Friars have been a welcome addition to the Galliagh area since they came here five years ago and I think this step shows their commitment to the area and its people.”
Making reference to council plans for a new community centre in the future, Colr. Hassan said the plans for St Joseph’s “will complement the new Galliagh community centre once it opens”.
“It will give the community a focus point at the heart of the area. I understand the concerns people had but feel this is an opportunity for the people of the area,” he said. “Once the hall reopens the focus will be around helping the community which I hope will enhance the usage of the hall and bring it back to the heart of the community.
Both councillors said they believe that the plans will be embraced by the local community.