By David Hennessy
An MP, a Labour councillor, Haringey Irish Pensioners, the dancing school that used it and the wider community have all reacted to the news that Haringey Irish Centre has closed.
The Irish World reported last week that Haringey Irish Centre had been closed suddenly and permanently by its trustees with staff there made redundant.
The Embassy of Ireland said it had offered advice on a sustainable way forward for the centre but heard nothing until it learned the centre had been put into liquidation.
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, told The Irish World: “This is extremely sad news. Tottenham has been one of the historic homes of London’s Irish community and the Irish Centre has been a staple in Haringey for decades. It has hosted Presidents, Ambassadors, elders in the community, weddings and funerals and countless celebrations for all communities. I sincerely hope even in this eleventh hour it can be saved.”
Adam Jogee, Labour Councillor for Hornsey, told The Irish World: “It’s a very sad day because the Irish Centre was a testament to the vibrant and thriving Irish community in our part of North London.
“I, like many others, who care about Ireland and the Irish community, will be sad to see the circumstances it finds itself in now but I look forward to working with stakeholders to find a sustainable future for the centre and other means of acknowledging the Irish contribution to our community.
“It’s clearly important enough for former Taoisigh, President Higgins, President McAleese have all visited so it has been a place where important people in niche roles in Ireland when they were over visited and that’s worth remembering.
“It was great for anyone who goes there to see the tricolour flying proudly.
“It reflected the best of Ireland. It was welcoming and served everyone. It was very much a little piece of Ireland in north London.”
Moira Terrill of The Haringey Irish Pensioners, told The Irish World: “I am very angry that in spite of the difficult situation concerning the coronavirus , that at no point in the last 6 months have the trustees of the Haringey Irish and Cultural Centre tried to contact us or any of the many local community groups to advise that the centre was in serious financial trouble, leading to the sudden and unexpected announcement of its closure and liquidation last week.
“My phone has been ringing constantly since the announcement, with anxious people worried about the situation. I hope that someone can come forward to suggest a way to save this great facility which has been supporting the local community for over 30 years.
“There is also the permanent loss of our social events attended by 200 – 300 hundreds of vulnerable local people throughout the year, currently suspended by the virus. This will be a major impact of the health and well being of all these elderly folk, as our tea dances were sometimes the only opportunity to meet friends and have a fun time.
“This seems such a major loss of a valuable facility to the local community especially as we come out of the virus lockdown.”
Bernadette Trainor of the Trainor School of Irish Dance, which was based at the centre, told The Irish World: “It’s just really sad. It leaves us stranded. We’ve been part of the centre for over 20 years.
“There were so many people who were dependent on it and it was a lifeline especially for the pensioners which I think is the saddest thing.
“For us, the Irish community in North London, I know there’s the Camden Irish Centre but for this part of London, there isn’t really anything for them.
“It’s just sad that we haven’t got that place. It was the heart of our culture in this part of London. It’s surprising that there was no help that could have got their heads above water and kept them going.
“It is a shock and it’s a great, big, massive shock that we weren’t told. We knew they were struggling. We’re all at a loss really. We only heard last Thursday but that was only through the grapevine.
“I’m sure the trustees did their best. They didn’t inform anybody. It would have been nice to have known that they were actually going to hand over the keys to somebody else and close the doors completely.
“It is the end of an era. I feel really heartbroken. It was a massive shock to all of us and I’m sure all the groups that were there.”
After being based at the centre for more than two decades, the school has to find a new home and not feeling optimistic about the prospect.
“Now we’ve lost our main centre. We held our classes there, we held our competitions there. We did our fundraising there. It’s a huge loss to us.
“We probably won’t find new premises in Haringey now. Goodness knows where we’re going to find somewhere now. I can’t see us finding somewhere easily.
“We’re at a loss. If we had a studio somewhere, that would be nice.”
The Haringey Centre was awarded £171,500 last October by the Irish government under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Emigrant Support Programme.
Officials there said they had tried to help the centre by putting it on a viable and ‘sustainable path forward.
The Embassy of Ireland, which operates the UK element of the ESP, told The Irish World: “Through the Emigrant Support Programme the Irish Government has for many years supported the provision of services through the Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre (HICC) to meet the needs of the community in Haringey and surrounding areas.
“The Embassy have been aware that HICC has been seeking to address significant operational challenges in recent times. The Embassy sought to support them in looking at sustainable paths forward but sadly heard last week that, following a decision by its Board, the Centre has entered liquidation.
“The Emigrant Support Programme and the Embassy remain committed to supporting the provision of services to the Irish community in Haringey, especially for those in greatest need. The Embassy will work with Irish community organisations in London to see how these needs are best addressed, most particularly at the current time.”
The umbrella organisation that included the centre Irish in Britain said: “We are saddened to hear that our member organisation Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre, has made the decision to initiate liquidation. As a membership body Irish in Britain has worked closely with the HICC Board of Trustees to support the organisation and to explore sustainability options in what is a very challenging operating environment. Following this decision by HICC Trustees, our priority is to ensure that the needs of the Haringey Irish community are met. In the coming weeks, we will be liaising with community members and stakeholders . We will also be happy to support discussions with Haringey Council that enable a positive future for this important community asset.”
It was decided late the week before last that the centre was to close permanently and put into receivership with staff made redundant.
A short statement on the website read: “We are sorry to announce that Haringey Irish Cultural Community Centre is now closed on a permanent basis. Should you require to speak someone regarding this matter, please contact Daniel Jeeves at Kirks on 01392 474303. This is now the only contact number for enquiries about the Centre.”
Established for over 30 years, Haringey Irish Cultural & Community Centre started in 1987. President Michael D Higgins made the centre his first port of call in UK after first winning office when he met the London Gaelic football team.
More than two thousand peoplehave signed a petition on Change.org to save the centre.