Arts jobs at risk over latest cuts, protestors say

by Claire Simpson. The Irish News.

HUNDREDS of protesters opposed to cuts to the arts held a rally at Stormont yesterday.

Artists, writers and musicians were among those who gathered outside Parliament Buildings.

The latest budget cuts slashed arts funding for this financial year by 20 per cent – a move which protestors said put jobs at risk.

Arts minister Carál Ní Chuilín, who was answering questions from assembly members yesterday, later agreed to meet the demonstrators.

She told the assembly that more budget reductions are expected.

“The British government have cut our block grant and have signalled that they are going to do so again in the future,” she said.

“As such, the budget allocations are going to become more regressive over the years.”

Later, the Sinn Fein minister clashed with DUP assembly member Nelson McCausland over what he claimed was a lack of “transparency” over funding to some arts groups.

Mr McCausland has previously criticised the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure’s decision to award west Belfast festival Féile an Phobail a total of £550,000 through a ‘cultural programme’ fund.

However, Ms Ní Chuilín accused Mr McCausland of having “an absolute brass neck”, given his handling of a Housing Executive maintenance contract while he was social development minister.

A Stormont committee found earlier this year that Mr McCausland had acted inappropriately when attempting to extend maintenance firm Red Sky’s contract.