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Caral Ni Chuilin has 'run out of road' on 10-year plan

By Staff Reporter

Published 26/11/2015

Accusing: Nelson McCausland
Accusing: Nelson McCausland

A row has broken out over the arts in Northern Ireland after the minister was accused of leaving it too late to start work on a strategy that will be impossible to finish in the lifetime of this Assembly.

The DUP's Nelson McCausland warned that the Stormont election in May has "put the minister in a position where her process will run out of road".

Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Caral Ni Chuilin formally launched her 10-year over-arching plan involving all government departments on Monday. There will be 12 weeks of consultation, closing on February 12, 2016.

But writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McCausland, chairman of the Assembly's culture and arts committee, warned it was too little, too late. He said the minister promised 20 weeks' consultation, "but she is so far behind her own schedule that she has had to cut it down to just 12 weeks, otherwise the consultation period would run into the middle of April and would end just mere weeks away from the next Assembly election".

After that, responses will have to be analysed, a summary published and the approval of the Executive sought, the DUP man said.

"If the analysis is to be genuine and meaningful, it alone could take six weeks, especially if there are a lot of responses, and there is simply not enough time to do all that before the election."

"Time will tell - and I have never claimed to be a prophet - but unless the minister has mastered some method of cramming a gallon of work into a pint pot of time, I simply do not see how this process can be completed."

Ms Ni Chuilin told MLAs she had received the final draft consultation in early summer and given the period of the Stormont House Agreement talks, Monday "was the best opportunity for me to publish the consultation".

"A 20-week consultation would not have allowed me to provide any comments or even to try to prepare a way forward, particularly for the new Department for Communities. That is why it was reduced to 12 weeks," she added.

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