Arts sector must be protected
The devastating impact of budget cuts on the arts and Northern Ireland's creative industries will adversely affect individuals and institutions, and none more so than the Nerve Centre in Derry-Londonderry.
The Creative Learning Centres have helped to create a remarkable worldwide reputation for Northern Ireland, and the achievements of those involved have been significant.
Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson and children's author Frank Cottrell-Boyce have now added their voices to those warning about the consequences if the proposed 50% cuts in the Nerve Centre's Creative Learning Centres and film programmes go ahead.
Sir Ken has underlined that the cuts would cause enormous damage for the schools, businesses and individuals benefiting from the work of these centres. He also points out that short-term cuts would seriously endanger the long-term gains of these initiatives, and emphasises that the work of the Creative Learning Centres is not only important in itself, but also in representing a new vision for NI.
Mr Cottrell-Boyce, the distinguished writer whose credits include the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, cuts to the heart of the issue by pointing out that "often where political leaders have struggled to make a difference, culture has stepped in to build a bridge (sometimes literally) and to create a space for understanding to grow".
Many other figures including Hollywood director Paul Greengrass, actor Ray Winstone and Danny Boyle, who masterminded the opening ceremony at the London Olympics, have all added their voices to the opposition to the cuts.
The creative industries in Northern Ireland punch well above their weight, and they contribute greatly to the amplification of a better image for the province abroad.
It is difficult to assess the value of the arts in financial terms alone, though money is vital to their success. They add to the good of society, and they are central to the quality of life in Northern Ireland.
The arts also generate money, and heed should be taken of the warnings about cuts which could cause serious - perhaps irreparable - damage.
At last our politicians are inching towards agreement on a budget, and the consultations are continuing. These are vitally important, but the arts - so often the easiest targets for cuts - should not be left by the wayside.