Belfast Telegraph

Ex-arts minister slams Sinn Fein man for funding jibe

By Claire O'Boyle

A former DUP minister has dismissed criticism from Mairtin O Muilleoir after the Sinn Fein MLA blamed the unionist party for supporting Conservative cuts to the arts.

The former Finance Minister spoke out yesterday against Tory austerity and the DUP, blaming them for the budget blow and vowing to lobby for "proper investment in the sector".

However, Nelson McCausland, who spent two years as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, said he couldn't recall the South Belfast MLA fighting to stop cuts in the sector when Caral Ni Chuilin was running the department.

"Under Caral Ni Chuilin, Sinn Fein stripped money from across the arts sector, from a whole range of arts organisations," he said.

"These included community arts programmes in order to fund some of Sinn Fein's own pet projects. I can't recall Mairtin O Muilleoir challenging his own party at that time for their behaviour and approach to arts funding cuts."

Mr O Muilleoir's comments followed a statement issued by Arts Matter NI, a campaign supported by almost 50 organisations spanning the sector, that warned of the devastating consequences of projected 8% funding cuts. The group said for some organisations "further tortuous slashing of their budgets may signal the final blow".

Mr O Muilleoir said: "Obviously such a cut would be devastating and could plunge many groups and organisations into crisis.

"Artists and arts groups are an engine for progress, diversity and community cohesion with a real and important contribution to make in our efforts to promote a future with a place for all and where difference is celebrated.

"The arts should not be the target of austerity budget cuts brought by the Tories and now supported by the DUP and I will continue to lobby the Department of Communities to seek proper investment in the sector."

Arts Matter NI, which is supported by groups including The MAC and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, is calling for an extra penny a day per person to be directed into the arts.

It claims if the cuts go ahead, Northern Ireland's arts sector would struggle to reach £5 per head, compared to more than £10 per person in Wales and £12.79 in the Republic of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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