Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Caral ni Chuilin, discussed funding cuts made to the Arts Council during today’s Question Time. The Minister described the cuts to the block grant from the British Government and the resultant financial strain on the Department. Fearghal McKinney MLA highlighted the protest against the cuts which took place outside Parliament Buildings today and expressed concern about the loss of jobs and impact on communities that the cuts will have. He asked if funding would be restored but Ms Ni Chuilin affirmed that, while it was good to see such support for the arts, “in the absence of any financial security coming from our Executive, and in the absence of the security that we, as an Executive, need around the moneys that we have had taken from our block grant in July 2011, with more of the same having been earmarked in July of this year, I cannot and will not give a guarantee — I believe that to do so would be reckless — that I will be able to restore the budget that I desperately want to restore.” She did however offer that “I will certainly be a champion of the arts. I will argue for additional money for the arts, and I look forward to full party support for that argument on the Executive.”
Andy Allen MLA then asked when the Minister expected to see a completed planning application for a new Casement Park stadium. Ms Ni Chuilin confirmed that the GAA is continuing to develop the design in line with the recommendations of the judicial review into the original application. The Minister added that “a key aspect of the process is ensuring that the GAA involves the community throughout the process to ensure a high level of engagement with all stakeholders. It will be for the GAA to decide on when it is in a position to submit its planning application.” The Minister is optimistic that everything will be in place by early next year and pledged the full support of the Department to the GAA with the process, ensuring that the recommendations of the recent project assessment review (PAR) report are fully implemented.
During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on the redevelopment of Windsor Park, staffing at Waterways Ireland, development of regional football stadia and the creative industries. During the period of topical questions the Minister also answered queries on the arts and culture strategy, the City of Culture legacy in east Londonderry and DCAL funding bids in upcoming monitoring rounds.