Belfast Telegraph

On the Hill: Caral Ni Chuilin's orchestral manoeuvre

By Noel McAdam

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin cannot be accused of an over-indulgence in the arts.

She has never been to a theatre show since taking up office, does not read novels much, and admitted she had never been to a performance by the Ulster Orchestra.

Except – as the Belfast Telegraph revealed – she has.

And when it comes to explaining why the Sinn Fein minister never realised some will view it as a performance akin to dancing on the head of a pin.

For On The Hill can now disclose it turns out the Culture chief did not count an event involving the Ulster Orchestra as being one of their concerts.

She undoubtedly was present when it performed at a Burns Night event two years ago.

Then in answer to a written question from Michelle McIlveen, the DUP chair of the Stormont committee which monitors the Arts and Culture Department, she said she had not been to an Ulster Orchestra gig.

But a source close to the minister has now told On the Hill: "While the Burns Night event included the Orchestra, it was not solely an Ulster Orchestra event.

"The minister was only being strictly honest in saying she had not been to a concert involving solely the Ulster Orchestra."

The Ye Banks And Braes event, which also featured Scots singer-songwriter Eddi Reader, was however part of the Ulster Orchestra's 2012 season.

As one woman who attended the event joked: "Perhaps she thought that Eddi Reader just had a very BIG backing band!"

The explanation may not be sufficient to satisfy the committee which was also told the minister has never attended a show at the Lyric, Grand Opera House, MAC or Waterfront theatres.

Ms McIlveen said: "I would have expected that the minister, given her priorities of promoting social inclusion and combating deprivation, would take the lead in encouraging participation and involvement in the arts."

But Ms Ni Chuilin's department also hit back: "The minister has a full and varied diary (and) personally oversees a huge range of high-profile events which have have included Derry City of Culture; the World Police and Fire Games; the launch and development across the North of an Irish language initiative and a number of high profile commemoration events as part of the Decade of Centenaries."

Five things we learnt this week

1 Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness made clear Dr Richard Haass was not a representative of the United States government in his capacity as chairman of the multi-party talks on flags, parades and the past.

2 Northern Ireland's 26 councils have received over 10,000 complaints about animal welfare since new legislation came into force almost two years ago.

3 Households across Northern Ireland are to receive leaflets about the relevance of the local government reforms.

4 Plans to redevelop Londonderry's old Waterside railway station (closed in 1980) have been put on track by Transport Minister Danny Kennedy.

5 Finance Minister Simon Hamilton and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster have completed a round of discussions with our seven largest banks.

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