STRANGFORD DUP MLA Simon Hamilton has raised the future of Killyleagh Library in the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber with the Minister of Employment and Learning.
The South Eastern Regional College, which is accountable to the Department of Employment and Learning, owns the current library building in the village.
During Employment and Learning question time at Stormont, Simon Hamilton asked the Minister to assure Killyleagh Library that the College will not impede the use of it’s premises should Libraries NI ultimately decide that it wishes to remain there.
Mr Hamilton said, “Since a shadow was cast over the future of Killyleagh Library, the issue of the state of the current accommodation has been to the fore. Libraries NI have made it clear that considerable capital investment is required not least in bringing the building up to disability access standards.
“At a time, it was rumoured that the South Eastern Regional College who are the owners of the library building were forcing the Library out. I have raised the matter directly with Ken Webb the Chief Executive of SERC who has assured me that this is not the case and instead, the College will not force Libraries NI’s hand but rather await their final decision.
“Should Libraries NI decide that they want to remain at the current site then the College would be in a position to negotiate a sale or rental with Libraries NI. Whilst the Killyleagh Library building is, as the Minister said, surplus to the College’s requirements it is critical to learn that any suggestion that SERC were looking to ‘evict’ the Library is not the case.
“I have sought this assurance that the College will not act unilaterally from both SERC and now the Employment and Learning Minister and have received them. It is important that as Libraries NI’s takes it’s decision about the future of Killyleagh Library that their decision making process isn’t clouded in any way by unfounded concerns about the current building” added Mr Hamilton.
The Assembly question referred to and the response received are detailed below:
South Eastern Regional College: Killyleagh.
At Stormont Mr Hamilton asked the Minister for Employment and Learning what discussions he has had with the South Eastern Regional College regarding the use of its Killyleagh premises as a library. (AQO 270/11-15)
Dr Farry: I have had no discussions with the South Eastern Regional College about the use of its Killyleagh premises as a library. However, I am aware that there are ongoing discussions between the college and Libraries NI. Accommodation at Killyleagh, part of which is used by the library, transferred to the South Eastern Regional College at its incorporation. There has been significant investment in its other campuses and the college considers the Killyleagh premises to be surplus to requirements for education purposes.
Libraries NI indicated that the future of Killyleagh Library will be determined as part of its strategic review. In an effort to be helpful, the South Eastern Regional College has agreed to await the outcome of that review before making any decision regarding the premises.
Mr Hamilton: Now that I have drawn the issue to the Minister’s attention, will he assure me and, more importantly, the users of Killyleagh Library that the South Eastern Regional College will do nothing to impede the maintenance and continuance of a library on the current site, if that is ultimately Libraries NI’s decision?
Mr Speaker: I will allow the Minister a quick answer.
Dr Farry: The college is an independent body. I will certainly bring the matter to its attention, so it will hear what the Member just said.