By Mags McGagh
Chorlton Irish Club has been put up for sale enraging its members who were not consulted beforehand. The club’s trustees have put out a statement saying they have no other option but to sell.
This comes after the club was threatened with being sold last year to pay off debt and ‘claims’ that include ‘issued at court’.
In January the Irish World reported that there were renewed concerns over the future of the club when a group named Friends of Chorlton Irish said they had been made aware of a document suggesting the club may be sold without consulting with its members who are supposed to own it.
With Britain in lockdown due to Covid-19, those fears were confirmed last week with the advertising of the building as a redevelopment property with estate agents Colliers International.
Friends of Chorlton Irish told the Irish World: “The move is not unexpected. We were made aware of a sales document before Christmas but various denials were issued as to its validity. The timing though is shocking for obvious reasons – in particular as members cannot meet to discuss their options.
“As regards the club going on the market, members were not consulted, they were not even informed about it. The Trustees have provided no information as to what will happen to the proceeds of the sale.
“You may recall that the Trustees – who have been in place for many years – took over day-to-day management of the club a year ago. They have not communicated with the club’s members since June last year. All attempts at dialogue have been ignored. Over recent months the club had been closed other than for pre-booked events and functions. No accounts have been produced to members, there’s been no AGM.
“It should be borne in mind that the Trustees took £25 each off around 200 new members last year who wanted to show their support for the club. The members have been treated with utter disrespect.”
When asked where the Irish community will gather now, Friends of Chorlton Irish said: “There are of course other Irish clubs and pubs in Manchester but the Chorlton club has a rich 60 year history. It’s a very popular venue serving not just the Irish community but also the local community.
“The strength of feeling in the community in opposition to the sale is clear.”
Friends of Chorlton Irish continued: “There’s been no consultation with the membership about the sale.
“Regardless of the legal position, from a moral standpoint an attempt to sell the club without the permission of the members is indefensible.
“This cannot reasonably be seen as a direct response to the current crisis: A draft sales brochure has been in circulation since before Christmas. This appears to have been in the planning for months. The decision to go to market now, when there is no prospect of members meeting because of Covid-19, is shocking. But there’s a long way to go yet.”
The trustees issued a statement on Monday evening that said the sale was very necessary to pay off the debts: “It is with great reluctance that the trustees of the property known locally as ‘the IASC’ have concluded that it is necessary to sell the property. The club which has been an asset held for the benefit of the Irish Association Social Club and its aims for many years has simply become financially unsustainable. This is a sad day for the Association, but one which has arrived inevitably.
“The trustees have been accused of being cynical given the timing of this announcement. However the trustees are facing several significant claims from creditors of the IASC, including one which has been issued at court. The IASC does not have resources other than the property which is held by the trustees, the trustees must therefore resort to selling as teh only viable resort to discharge the liabilities and unburden the association’s debt.
“The trustees appreciate that there is strength of feeling amongst the local residents, however allegations have been made against the trusteees about their motives, their wish to ‘lock out the community’, and even personal attacks about their capacity to deal with the sale, and their honesty and credibility. Those allegations are hurtful, untrue and in some cases defamatory. The trustees will take action and contact any person making defamatory statements against them, particularly if those comments amount to a sustained campaign of harassment in a misguided attempt to stop the inevitable sale of the property to discharge the IASC debts.”
The statement addresses the question of what will happen to proceeds that says there will be a meeting but makes no mention of how this will take place with a lockdown in place for the foreseeable future.
“A meeting is being arranged for the members of the IASC, who meet the membership criteria as set out in the constitution and are fully paid up members, to discuss the future of the club and the use to which any surplus after payment of IASC debts will be put.”
The statement goes on to say that despite the efforts of successive committees, running the club successfully has not been possible due to dwindling memberships and that the club just does not have the finances to pay the massive debts.
The south Manchester club was founded in the 1950s as a meeting place for the Irish community and counted Sir Matt Busby among its members.
The club is owned by its members and is held under a trust.
Last year Manchester City Council listed the club as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ – effectively placing a six-month moratorium on any sale so that interested community groups might have the opportunity to put together a bid.
Last March the venue known as Irish Association Social Club ceased trading and a new club The Chorlton Irish Club began trading on 1 April after four trustees took control of the club’s day to day running. This move was welcomed by members at the time. The trustees said they would hand back day-to-day control to the members but this did not happen.
However, communication between the trustees and the club’s members has been non-existent since last summer.
Friends of Chorlton Irish has 800 followers on Facebook and got the support of some 6,000+ people for their petition to save the club last year.