Having been out of the country for the last few weeks I come late to the unfortunate and divisive controversy regarding Gilford Library provoked by the three UUP Knockiveagh councillors and the allegation they made against me and my party colleagues.
I am grateful to my colleagues for the way in which they have defended me on this, but I believe that I ought now to personally respond.
My personal commitment to the retention of Gilford Library was attacked by the UUP on three different occasions. First when the three UUP Knockiveagh councillors levelled their allegation against me.
Secondly when UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson gave her public support to that allegation when she sought to re-package it publicly as simply asking a question and thirdly by UUP supporter David Martin who simply repeated it even though by that stage it had been exposed as utterly false. As the person whose commitment to the future of Gilford Library has been so publicly attacked by the UUP three times it is only right to state the following.
First, as a member of the Board of Libraries NI I have personally pressed the case for retaining Gilford Library directly to the Chief Executive. Had the three UUP Knockiveagh councillors, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA or the UUP correspondent made any attempt to verify this they could have done so, but regrettably they did not.
I can also confirm that when the Gilford Library campaigners made a presentation to the last meeting of the Libraries NI board and then withdrew from the meeting I spoke up in support of the campaign.
As a political researcher and assistant for Stephen Moutray MLA I set up the meeting between campaigners for Gilford Library and the DCAL Committee Chair at Stormont. Additionally I set up a meeting between the Chief Executive and Sydney Anderson MLA and Stephen Moutray MLA so as to make clear our party’s position on the retention of Gilford Library.
In addition I have issued formal correspondence to the Minister, and chair of the DCAL committee stating my support for Gilford library.
It is unfortunate that Councillors Barr, Hanna and Ingram did not check the facts prior to making such a sweeping statement and indeed it would be more fitting for them to ask as to why their three Assembly candidates prior to the May elections failed to unite on the issue and as a result demonstrated a lack of unity on the issue when they could not as a group meet with the DUP candidates.
While it is unfortunate for me to have had my personal commitment to Gilford Library impugned as it has in recent days, it is much more regrettable that those who have campaigned so hard to save Gilford Library should have first been so failed by the three UUP Assembly candidates and then had all of their hard work so politicised.
This is not about party politics it is about endeavouring to work to save Gilford Library and if the UUP were to research this they would see clearly that I am committed to such.
Those who have campaigned so hard to save Gilford Library deserved so much better from those who should have known better, but who sadly did not.
Councillor Carla Lockhart