Cork City Library was forced to close its doors due to fears for the safety of its staff. Photo: Cork City Library.

Stronger garda response needed to keep library staff safe

Workers have been targeted multiple times in recent months by anti-LGBTQI+ groups.

Following a heated protest last Saturday afternoon that led to the closure of Cork City Library, Green Party councillor Oliver Moran has called for a more robust response from the gardaí to ensure the safety of library staff.

Workers have been targeted multiple times in recent months by anti-LGBTQI+ agitators, some of who are believed to be connected with the far-right in the UK. On a number of occasions, small groups have entered the premises, recorded staff and subjected them to intimidation and verbal abuse.

During the most recent protest, the group draped a banner without permission at the entrance of the library, which read: “There are only two genders: male and female.” The group also vehemently opposes the library's stocking of LGBTQ+ books.

Cllr Moran said there is a need for a stronger response from the gardaí to safeguard library staff. “I think it's gotten past the point where a hands-off approach is appropriate. Even though it's just a small number of people, it's outrageous that library staff can be harassed in these ways.”

He also said that by-laws need to be put in place to help to protect library staff from harassment. “An advantage of by-laws is that they can clearly state what's appropriate or not appropriate in local circumstances in ways that national laws can't. In this case, you can clearly state that it's not appropriate to make recordings in a library and to stop doing so when instructed by staff,” he told the Cork Independent.

“By-laws would mean that Cork City Council could pursue the offenders with fines and prosecutions, ban them from the premises, and do so independently of the gardaí in specific local circumstances,” he added.

“Cork City Council can only make by-laws for areas under its control. I've been contacted by pharmacy workers intimidated by these people too. It's up to the guards to protect them and staff in bookshops from harassment.”

On Monday of this week the Lord Mayor of Cork, Kieran McCarthy, held a meeting with gardaí in response to the escalating concern surrounding the ongoing intimidation of library staff, calling it “horrific harassment”.

Meanwhile, the launch of ‘Diary Of An Activist’ by Orla Egan and Megan Luddy O’Leary took place at the City Library on Monday. There were concerns that the event, which was part of Pride Festival, might be targeted by protestors, but it passed off without incident. A further protest is planned by anti-LGBTQI+ groups in early September.

In response to inquiries about the safety of library staff, a spokesperson for Cork City Council issued the following statement to The Cork Independent: “The health, safety and wellbeing of library staff is - and always has been - of the highest importance to senior management.

“Cork City Council employs a comprehensive Health & Safety Management System which is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis to reflect an evolving operating environment. Cork City Council continues to engage with An Garda Siochána and other stakeholders, as necessary, across a number of functions.”

The Cork Independent has contacted An Garda Síochána for a statement but has not received a response at this time.