Cork City Council accused of failing to protect library staff amid anti-LGBTQ+ protests

The National Secretary of Forsa, Richy Carrothers, warned: “If Cork City Council fails to act, we will act ourselves".

Cork City Council are being threatened with industrial action over failure to provide support for staff. The image shows a image of the front of Cork Central Library. It is a modern grey concrete building.
Image: @whatkatythoughtnext via Instagram

Cork City Council has been accused of “a dereliction of duty” by Forsa, the largest Irish trade union for the public service, amid claims of “harassment and intimidation” towards library staff.

The union is threatening the Council with industrial action over a failure to provide a safe working environment for staff since a series of ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ protests began at Cork Central Library in March.

One of the first demonstrations saw a group entering the Central Library on Grand Parade and subsequently ripping up a copy of This Book is Gay by trans author Juno Dawson. The act of vandalism was also live-streamed on social media.

Since then, protestors have frequented the library, confronting staff and subjecting them to intimidation and slurs such as “paedophile”.

Speaking to Echo Live, National Secretary and Head of Local Government and Municipal with Forsa, Richy Carrothers, said, “What we have seen is an unfolding and ongoing event regarding the harassment and intimidation of working and committed library staff as they go about their duties providing services to the Cork public.”

He said the union had tried to engage Cork City Council and had put them on notice of their ongoing concerns. He also claimed that the latest correspondence sent by the union hadn’t received a response after two weeks.

He continued, “If Cork City Council fails to act, we will act ourselves… There is a dereliction of duty on behalf of Cork City Council. Under the Health and Safety at Work legislation, they have vicarious and legal commitments to providing a safe working environment, and that isn’t happening at the moment.

“It might be the case that we end up escalating this industrially, or asking our people to simply withdraw from the counter provision when these people come into libraries, because their primary responsibility is to their own health and safety in the workplace.” 

He called on the Council “to confirm… what legal avenues they are exploring in order to prevent this disruption, and in incidents where books have been damaged and people continue to be disruptive forces, what actions they have taken in terms of their own legal advice, be that the possibility of taking injunctions or talking to the gardaí about having these people removed on an ongoing basis.”


A spokesperson for the Council also commented to The Echo, saying, “Libraries are centres of learning at the heart of communities and have no role as censors.

“Cork City Council has been to the fore nationally when it comes to social inclusion and the diversity and inclusion agenda.”

They also pointed out the Council’s commitment to inclusion. “The city’s newly acquired rainbow city status, a first among local authorities in Ireland, is one of many initiatives it has led on in terms of LGBTI+ community recognition and rights within our City.”

They continued, “Cork City Libraries fully recognise the right to peaceful protest and has informed An Garda Siochána of recent activity. There are no plans to remove material from the library.” 

Councillor John Maher, who tabled a motion of support for library staff in March, said, “The people who are protesting need to remember that while everyone has a right to peaceful protest, they need to be respectful, and you can’t video people, and you can’t shout slurs, because at the end of the day, there’s an ordinary worker, an ordinary person, at the receiving end of your rage.”

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána confirmed that Gardaí in Cork are investigating an incident of criminal damage and said, “An Garda Síochána continues to liaise with officials of Cork City Council in relation to these incidents.”

He also said, “There is a constitutional right to the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, subject to statutory provisions. An Garda Síochána respects the right for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.”

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