Following protests that forced Cork City Library to close and targeted others, Munster MEP Grace O'Sullivan joined calls to condemn the hate campaign targeting Irish libraries inspired by far-right groups across Europe and the United States.
The European Parliament today passed a report on the future of the European book sector which condemned attacks against libraries and bookshops in the context of ongoing far-right campaigns against them. In recognition of growing pressure on libraries and bookshops, the report which passed by 513 votes in favour to 11 against, stressed the role of libraries and bookshops as "safe and welcoming spaces where a wide diversity of viewpoints are respected" and deplored "all attacks against them."
The report widely supported the European book sector which is responsible for publishing 600,000 titles annually. It included a call for more supports for books in minority languages (such as Irish) as well as calling for the introduction of a 'cultural voucher' system to allow young people better access to literature.
Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, MEP Grace O'Sullivan said "Irish people have always been proud of our literary heritage. But we are also no stranger to controversy. Remember that Brendan Behan and even Edna O'Brien had their books banned in Ireland. Thankfully we have moved past those days and we will not allow these extremists to bring us back to those darker days. This report is a celebration of our book culture and a rallying call to defend our libraries and bookshops."
In recent months Cork City Library has been forced to close on a number of occasions due to threats and aggressive demonstrations from far right groups. Libraries in Limerick, Tralee and Killaloe County Clare have also been targeted by extremist movements.
Elsewhere in Europe, libraries and bookshops have come under intense pressure from right wing groups and governments. In Hungary, a Budapest bookstore was fined nearly €32,000 for displaying a graphic novel featuring young gay people. Legislation in Hungary has banned schools from even teaching about the existence of homosexuality, sparking litigation from the European Commission.