‘End of an era’ as Haringey Irish Centre closes permanently

By David Hennessy

Haringey Irish Centre has 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 and been kept fully informed of developments at the centre through all stages..

Despite repeated attempts, the Irish World has not reached any of the trustees for comment.

More than a thousand people signed a petition on Change.org to save the centre.

The petition points out that some groups, such as the Trainor School of Irish Dance and the Lupus Enfield Support Group, would have nowhere to go without the club.

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.”

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.”

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.”

Trainor School of Irish Dance have lost their base.

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.”

Carlotta Scott, Chair of the Lupus Enfield Support Group that has used the centre for 14 years, told The Irish World: “The centre closing would impact us negatively. I don’t know what’s going to happen because there’s nothing like that in the borough. They have closed everything else.

“Quite a lot of people like to use the centre because people like to have big funerals there. It’s been good for the community like that.”

The Lupus Enfield Support Group held their monthly meetings and fundraising events there. Being local for many of our members, it enables them to attend without having to travel too far. The charity are unsure what they will do in future.

“There’s nowhere else in the borough that we can actually go. I hope they do keep it open. I did sign the petition and I did send it out to quite a lot of members to sign it as well. Hopefully we should be able to get some feedback on what’s going to happen.

“It’s a shock. I didn’t know anything about the closure, I got a text actually on Saturday. I was taken aback really. I knew nothing at all about it.”

It was decided just last week 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.”

President Michael D. Higgins visit to Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre, Tottenham, 17/7/2013. Pictured with London GAA footballer Mark Gottsche (ahead of London’s historic Connacht Football Championship final against Mayo in Castlebar)

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.

The statement on the petition, started by Tamzin Clifford, reads: “The Haringey Irish Cultural & Community Centre is going to be closed down.

“It is a link for cultures to come together to socialise. Many people have parties, clubs, daycare and receive help and guidance from people here and the building as a whole.

“There is a luncheon club and daycare in which many Irish come together for fun and meals together. Without this club, many of them would not even leave home.

“There is also a help and advice centre in the building which many people look to for help in times of need. Without this people, wouldn’t be able to receive the help they need.

“There are many fundraisers held too to support charities.

“Please support us in saving it as it will impact us greatly as we will lose many people and connections without this building to reunite us all.”

Tommy Maguire said signing the petition: “The Irish Centre was a massive part of my childhood and basically my second home. It would be a sin to allow it to close under these circumstances, especially considering the thousands of people it helps and supports.”

Sharron Murray added: “This Is a community heartland. Why should we lose it?
This centre is well used and would be a great loss to the wider community.”

This article has been amended to reflect a clarification by the embassy’s Emigrant Support Programme in which it wishes it to be known that it was fully informed at all stages by Haringey Irish Centre. 

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