Members of an Irish club that was on the brink of closure have voiced fresh concerns about the way it is currently being run, according to one club member present at a recent members’ meeting.
The trustees of Chorlton Irish Club in Manchester announced plans in April to save the organisation from closure after a successful online campaign.
Instead of the popular establishment closing its doors in order to resolve a large unpaid tax bill, the club signalled its intention to wind up the existing business and reopen as a new private members club.
This came after a campaign to save Chorlton Irish Club grew online, including a petition which gathered over 5,500 signatures, as well as support from a local Labour councillor.
The High Lane venue, known formerly as The Irish Association Social Club, was issued with a £117,000 VAT bill in December.
Trustees said in April that the tax bill will be paid but that in the meantime, a new committee will be formed to manage the running of the business.
After some online confusion over whether a meeting would take place to address many of the members’ concerns, a gathering was held last week. The Chorlton Irish Club stated there would be no meeting, clashing with the view of Friend’s of Chorlton Irish, the campaign group comprising members and concerned outsiders, who maintained a meeting should be held to address issues.
Patrick O’Reilly, one of the 12 members who called for the meeting under the club’s constitution, told the Irish World that the 60 or so members present expressed concern at the “lack of an elected committee to act on their behalf” and were “unhappy about some of the trustees decisions”.
The meeting was called for members to hear directly from the trustees about the financial crisis at the club and to initiate election process for a new committee to run the club.
The members — many of whom have long associations with the club — also lamented how membership had reopened briefly but closed again and that the option of online membership had not been revisited, he said.
The fact that there is no permanent club manager and the club was not answering emails also vexed members, O’Reilly added.
A “case for closure” was emailed to club members last March 6, stating the situation had become “urgent” with “outstanding debts immediately due”.
According to O’Reilly, two representatives of the trustees addressed members and fielded questions, with just one trustee present at the meeting in the club’s premises.
“The trustees felt they couldn’t yet give full account of all the debt, and had an accountant working to build a fuller picture,” O’Reilly said. “The largest chunk of debt, it was explained, were long-term loans from four members, secured against the premises, and these investors had agreed to a 12 month interest deferment.”
O’Reilly said that the trustees were in discussions with the HMRC regarding the VAT bill. “The day to day finances of the club were now sound but the club needed to generate more income if it was to trade its way out of the debt,” he added.
“Members were told that the trustees were fully supportive of having a committee to take over the management of the club in the future. However, to form a committee soon would be rash as the financial position was still not fully understood. They did agree to reopen membership,” he said.
The members thanked the trustees for protecting the club from closure, and both members and trustees expressed a “strong commitment” to saving the club.