“Time for O’Muilleoir to have honest arts conversation”

02 February 2018

DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford has accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy over their criticism of funding in the arts sector.

Christopher Stalford MLA

Chair of the Asembly & Executive Review Committee

Christopher Stalford

Mr Stalford, who is a former member of the Assembly’s Communities Committee said that Mairtin O’Muilleoir’s spinning is insulting people’s intelligence.

Christopher Stalford said,

“There are real pressures on public finances and on all areas of government expenditure. Rather than issuing “bright-side of the road” press statements, SF should have an honest conversation about the funding of our arts sector. Sinn Fein’s latest comments are deeply hypocritical.

Firstly, had Mairtin O’Muilleor expressed the same interest in such issues whilst he was Finance Minister then he might have found the time to bring forward a budget. He had the perfect opportunity to direct funds to each department but decided to take the easy route out and walked away.

Secondly, Sinn Fein ignore Caral Ni Chuilin’s record as Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister.  While Minister, she presided over cuts totaling nearly £8.5million. During the course of her 5-year tenure, it represents on average nearly £1.7million of cuts each year.

When a DUP Minister came into post in 2016-2017, funding for the Arts increased by £317,000. Let’s not forget Ministers are entitled to make the case for extra funding in their Department.

SF’s record was recognised within the sector, when in 2014 a former Arts Council of Northern Ireland Director accused their Arts Minister of “clearly (having) absolutely no notion of what is going on in the arts in Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Fein’s attitude to the arts was abysmal. Their focus was on pet cultural projects as opposed to investing in an already thriving sector. Indeed, if Mairtin O’Muilleoir and his colleagues have now decided they have a real interest in the arts as opposed to pet projects, then he could get around the Executive table to discuss these matters with other parties and attempt to find a solution.

It’s time for Sinn Fein to get real and face up to the facts of what is happening in Departments and the pressures that exist, due to their failure to get back into the Executive. It offers nothing to the arts sector for Mairtin O’Muilleoir to put on his own theatrical performances of manufactured outrage about funding.”

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