Thousands Sign Petition over Neighbourhood Centre

Over 2,100 people from the Ballinfoile Mór and Castlegar areas have already signed a petition demanding that the new Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre be maintained as a public facility to serve the needs of the local residents. So well done to all the local activists that made this happen and who stood yet again outside City Hall last Monday to make the feelings of their community on the centre known to councillors.
The issue which has been on the agenda of the city council for the last three monthly meetings is finally expected to be voted upon by councillors on March 14th.  Representatives from the local community have had discussions recently with council officials and a number of our key concerns over peak hours, board of management community representation, discounted rates and prioritising jobs in the centre for local people, as well as an absolute guarantee that there will be no privitisation of the Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood and Sports Centre have been acceded too.  However our focus is still to keep the facility under local government management/staffing in association with the local community as well as to ensure that its annual council budget is not reduced. Hence we will continue to campaign on these demands and a public meeting is being planned to discuss the proposals on Social Enterprise from the council officials and associated costings of the centre once they are finalised after further consultations.
But we can learn a lot from experiences of the Knocknacarra area where there has been a similar publicly-owned facility in operation for a number of years but with quite limited hours of opening. The council now wish to put both centres out to tender under a Social Network enterprise. The Knocknacarra community have years of experience on the issue of public ownership and are presently putting their own counter proposal together. In a conversation with Gerry Corbett, chairperson of the Knocknacarra Sports and Facilities Co-Op, their approach as outlined seems very advantageous in serving the needs of local residents. So it makes total sense to, as well as show the council’s proposal on tendering of the centre, to invite Gerry and his team to outline the plans of their co-operative to our proposed public meeting as well as to invite Tommy Flaherty from the Ballybane Centre to give us his opinion.  A gathering of local centre activists will be called upon soon to discuss this approach.
The people of Ballinfoile Mór have fought for 30 years for this indoor community complex. We owe it to those who stood with us over many decades; to those thousands of people who signed our recent door-to-door petition and to future generations not yet born to ensure that the centre will always serve, be owned, managed and used by the local people.
Tomorrow Roisin is organising an informal get-together of local residents at 7pm in 50 Baile an Chóiste. Thanks Roisin! 

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