The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland. It is the prime distributor of public support for the arts throughout the region, offering a broad range of funding opportunities through Exchequer and National Lottery funds.
The Arts Council was originally established in 1962 as a successor to the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) which had operated since 1942. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (1994), a company limited by guarantee, ceased activity in August 1995.
The new Arts Council became a statutory body on 1st September 1995. Its functions are set out in Article 4 (1) of the Arts Council ( Northern Ireland) Order 1995:
In addition, the Arts Council has statutory functions under the National Lottery Act 1993 as amended by the National Lottery Act 1998.
CONDUCT OF BUSINESS
In setting up a statutory body rather than a voluntary body, the government emphasised both the importance of the arts to society in Northern Ireland and the centrality of the Arts Council itself in the development of the arts. The Council does not devolve responsibility down to committees, as was previously the case, but consults panels of external advisers before making decisions regarding grants, awards, scholarships and bursaries.