Fears that Galway City Council, community groups, and local residents will not be running the new community centres at Cappagh Park and Ballinfoile have led to a call for a protest to take place outside City Hall ahead of this afternoon's council meeting.
The first city council meeting of the year takes place today, where discussion and a vote on proposals regarding the new centres are to be held. A report on the centres is to be issued to councillors, however Independent councillor Catherine Connolly says the report contains City Hall chief executive Brendan McGrath's intention to seek tenders for the operation of the centres.
Cllr Connolly regards this as "privatisation by stealth" and "at odds with the announcement towards the end of last year" that the Government had sanctioned the recruitment of local government staff to enable the council to run community centres.
These fears have led the People Before Profit Alliance to call for a 'Stop The Privatisation Of Our Community Centres' protest outside City Hall at 3pm, ahead of today's meeting and vote.
While the report does not prohibit City Hall or community groups from applying, or being accepted, to run the centres, both Cllr Connolly and the PBPA are concerned that the content of the report "indicates a private for profit entity would most likely succeed in winning the tender"; more particularly so if the operation of both centres is "offered as one unit as seems to be the case".
Cllr Connolly fears this would "immediately exclude any community group" from succeeding as no group would be "interested in running a community centre outside of its area". Dette McLaughlin of the PBPA said: ""If the community centres are transferred out of council control they will lose staff and obviously funding.The private sector will not run the centres in the interest of the local people but for their own profit margins."
December saw two protests regarding the future running of the centres, but Ms McLaughlin says "wider public opposition" is needed.
"We must tell Galway City Council to work in partnership with the communities of Knocknacarra and Ballinfoyle to operate the community centres by the people for the people," she says. "We want centres that can be well used by members of the public and all of our different user groups. They should be a place to allow our residents somewhere to exercise and socialise, to keep our children off the streets, and prevent isolation of adults."