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Protests at library cuts across Northern Ireland

Protesters campaign against cuts to library opening hours outside Belfast Central Library  
John Monaghan

PROTESTS have taken place across Northern Ireland on Saturday against proposed cuts to library services.

A total of 14 branches are set to have their opening hours cut under plans announced by Libraries NI, despite figures from the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) showing a rise in the number of people using libraries.

Some libraries, such as Belfast Central, would be open for nine fewer hours per week if the proposals, which are subject to public consultation, are agreed.

Members of Unite the union, the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, Labour Alternative and the Socialist Party held protests outside libraries on Saturday.

Sean Burns, spokesman for The Hands Off Our Libraries Campaign, said: "From Enniskillen to Carrickfergus, we found universal opposition to these cuts.

"Our libraries don't just provide books, they are community hubs. They provide vital resources for students, young families, people on benefits, the elderly and immigrant communities."

Mr Burns added: "Today was just the beginning of the campaign.

"We will be picketing the constituency office of Minister Paul Givan who has responsibility for our libraries - and whose local library in Lisburn is on the chopping block - and will be delivering our petitions to the Department of Communities before the so-called consultation on these cuts closes."

Libraries NI chief executive Irene Knox has previously said the organisation has no choice but to reduce opening hours.

She said: "If our circumstances change, and additional funding is made available, then it will be used to minimise the reductions in library opening hours."

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