There has been angry reaction to the decision of Foróige to close the Youth Information Centre in Castlebar.
The centre, known more commonly as The Kipp, closed last Thursday and news of the decision has led to online and traditional petitions being set up against the closure and in the few short days since the news broke this week, over 500 signatures have been obtained.
Foróige, the national youth development association, has defended their decision to close The Kipp based on the need to re-appropriate funds to the Big-Brother, Big-Sister Youth Mentoring Programme in Mayo.
However a Castlebar youth who uses the centre and has set-up the online petition against the closure, has questioned the logic behind the decision.
Fergal Rowe, a 17-year-old student at St Gerald’s College in Castlebar, has called for government intervention to keep the centre open.
“With the loss of this vital facility in the Taoiseach’s own constituency, what are teenagers expected [to do], with no safe, alcohol-free social spaces provided to them? We are calling upon the government to provide the funding necessary to keep this vital facility open,” he said.
Commenting on the closure on the online petition, Niamh Donnelly said that the Kipp was ‘an amazing resource for our community’.
“It has been somewhere young people could go, to hang out with friends, in a safe, warm and friendly environment, and it’s a place where any teenager could go with a question or a problem; support was always available at the Kipp. To take away this support, especially in the difficult circumstances our country is in, would be a crying shame. Kipp has had positive effects and the lives of teenagers, not just Castlebar, but from all around Mayo,” she wrote.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Therese Ruane has described it as ‘disgraceful’ that a town of the size of Castlebar will have no youth centre.
“It is frightening to think that a town the size of Castlebar would have nowhere young people can go, that is disgraceful,” she told The Mayo News. “Look at the difficulties young people have to face. This is a basic facility. The Youth Club was a means of getting away from the culture of drink and drug use which is so dominant.
Cllr Ruane, a member of Castlebar Town Council, described the decision as even more shocking given the success that the centre was.
Cllr Ruane and a group of concerned young people met last night (Monday) to set up a committee to campaign for a youth centre in Castlebar.
In a statement released yesterday, Foróige defended their decision. They stated that while the decision to ‘reprioritise funding was not taken lightly’, that it did allow them to continue to provide the Big Brother Big Sister programme, which, they say, reaches over 360 young people in Mayo. They add that they are ‘fully committed to continuing to meet the developmental needs of the young people of Castlebar’ and that options for alternatives to The Kipp are being explored.