Campaigners in Manchester have launched an ‘urgent’ petition to stop the 63-year old Chorlton Irish Club (Irish Association Social Club or IASC) being sold off by its members ‘to pay urgent debts’.
Local councillors have come out on the side of the campaigners and are trying to have the club deemed as an Asset of Community Value to prevent it being sold off to developers. They are also seeking six months in which to attract someone to run the club as a community resource.
Plans to sell off the club, which has operated there in various forms since 1956, were announced at the beginning of this month.
The club, a registered charity is owned by its members and is used for private functions, fitness classes and comedy nights, concerts and other events.
Its mission statement reads: “To preserve and promote Irish music, culture and history in Manchester, to provide social amenities to the Irish community and to promote the welfare of its members and the wider Irish community.”
The club’s managers emailed members on 6 March to say they must sell because of insurmountable debt and other financial difficulties.
The email outlined the ‘case for closure’ and said the situation is now ‘urgent’ and ‘outstanding debts immediately due.’ It has stopped accepting new members.
— Friends of Chorlton Irish (@ChorltonFriends) March 15, 2019
A protest group, The Friends of Chorlton Irish Club, launched a petition and wants the club committee to withdraw its proposal to allow time for ‘alternative plans’ to be developed. They have the backing of local politicians.
The group said: “The club is a vital venue, not only for the Irish community but also for Chorlton and the surrounding areas. It hosts over 30 different community organisations and activities.
“It’s a thriving centre for Irish culture and its community uses range from Zumba classes to comedy nights.
“It also is heavily used for private functions such as birthdays, Christenings and funerals, regardless of any Irish links. There are very few bookable community spaces like that in the area.”
On 3 April members will be asked, at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), to vote in support the decision to close the venue and sell the site.
The campaign group said this is too little warning: “We believe the club could be built into a vibrant and sustainable community asset for the long-term.
“We cannot understand the rush to sell off the club site with such little warning.
“This is not in the best interests of the Irish community nor the people of Chorlton and the wider region.”
Although the club operates as a charitable organisation, a listing could not be readily be found on the charities register.
It regularly supports local charities such as the Catholic Schools Sports Federation, Christie Hospital Cancer Research and Rainbow Family Trust.
Local politicians in Manchester have indicated their support for the campaign to save the club including Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith (Lab) and Chorlton councillors, John Hacking, Eve Holt and Matt Strong.
In a joint statement, the councillors said: “As local councillors, we are aware of proposed plans to close the Chorlton Irish Club and dispose of the site.
“We are in contact with residents and groups concerned about the potential loss of a much loved and well used local community asset.
“Chorlton Irish Club is, of course, a significant part of the history and heritage of the Irish community in Chorlton, and beyond.
“It is a valuable community space used by many individuals, groups and organisations, in an area which does not have an abundance of such facilities.
“Whilst many of the users of the building have a direct connection to the Irish community and Irish culture and history, significantly many do not.
“We recognise from the information currently available that there are significant challenges facing the future of the club in its current form and we as local councillors want to ensure that every opportunity is available to retain this asset to the community.
“Therefore, ahead of the Extraordinary General Meeting of Chorlton Irish Association members on the 3rd of April we are supporting an application being made by local residents to have the building designated as an Asset of Community Value by Manchester City Council.
They added: “We believe this is a sensible step to enable a full and comprehensive examination of all the options available, including retaining the building as a community asset.
The Friends of Chorlton Irish Club can be contacted via email at [email protected]