Laois County Councillors staunchly opposed any merger between the library services in Laois and Offaly at last week’s monthly meeting.
Seven of the 19 county councillors had motions down for last week’s county council meeting, opposing the merger or looking for clarification on matters. Following a lengthy discussion, Councillors agreed to send a letter to the Minister of Environment, Alan Kelly, stating their opposition.
Cllr Noel Tuohy said any merger would decimate the service in Laois.
“Traditionally, Laois hasn’t come out very well from previous amalgamations and I have no reason to think this is going to be any different. This has not been thoughy through, it’s a book balancing excercise that will decimate the library service.”
Cllr Caroline Dwane-Stanley, said she was completely opposed. She said library staff were concerned about a staffless library pilot project in Offaly, which Cllr Dwane-Stanley said removed the personal touch from the library.
“We have 10 libraries which all provide a good service, I don’t see how this amalgamation will benefit Laois”.
While Cll Catherine Fitzgerald said there was no cost-benefit analysis carried out.
“Why change something that is working perfectly,” she questioned. Before asking the acting County Manager, if the councillors would have an input into the final decision or if it was the Department’s decision.
While Cathaoirleach, Cllr John Joe Fenelly said it would be detrimental to the public that they represented.
Cllr Mary Sweeney, who works in the library services, said if the council had talked to staff three or four months ago about the pans, a lot of their fears would have been allayed.
“Consultation with the staff would have been the key to taking this forward or putting it to bed. There is a lot of fear among staff now for their jobs and career development.”
She said there had been a lot of innaccuracies publicly, but she wanted the absolute truth to come out.
“There is five notice of motions down for this meeting, people feel strongly about this strategy. Councillors were briefed on this in September 2013 - what has happened since then,” enquired Cllr James Kelly.
While, Cllr Jerry Lodge said laois has always lost out in regionalisation.
“I’ve never been a fan of regionalistion, Laois has always lost out. Until we get full clarification, I am opposed to this,” he said.
While, Cllr Willie Aird said that it was a sad day for Laois County Council.
“Even in the 1980’s when we turned off public lights, we never had to cut back out contribution to the library. It is one area that you need to keep updated.”
“I was totally opposed to the VEC merger and one day I will be proved right. The people that rammed that through are gone now, never to be heard of again.”