Assembly supports motion for more Arts Funding
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has warmly welcomed the very positive outcome of the motion proposed to the Assembly today by South Belfast Alliance MLA, Anna Lo, to “raise the level of arts funding to at least the United Kingdom average within the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review”.
The Executive voted overwhelmingly in support of the motion, and gave their backing to the Arts Minister, Edwin Poots’s confirmation that he will be trying to secure the full increase, as recommended in the motion fully endorsed by the Arts Council.
In a well-informed and consensual debate on the Alliance motion, spokespeople from DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and UUP considered a wide range of positive benefits that would be achieved by increasing the level of funding for the arts. These include the added ability to attract visitors to the area; the benefits to the local economy through the added incentive for businesses to invest in Northern Ireland and to establish bases in the area; the significant employment potential, especially in the creative industries; the importance of the arts and creative industries as catalysts for regeneration and as positive image-builders in other European cities; the positive impact of the arts on the health and well-being of our old and young people, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation; the significant return on any public money invested in the arts; and the advantage of a vibrant arts scene to the night-time economy. As one party spokesperson summed up, “Investment in the arts is investment in our people”.
To bring Northern Ireland’s investment in the arts in line with our neighbours will require an increase to £11.55 per person per year. Anna Lo, MLA, described this as “a modest request”. The current Arts Council’s entire budget for 2007/08 is less than one third of one percent of that allocated to the Department of Health and Social Services; and two-thirds of one percent of the budget allocated to the Department of Education. She welcomed the positive nature of the Arts Minister’s comments on arts funding but added that he must now deliver. “The Minister must now ensure that his comments today are followed up with local positive actions to increase arts funding to the level provided in the rest of the UK.”
Speaking after the debate, Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, said, “This is the first time that the Assembly has debated the funding situation of the arts, and we take renewed encouragement from the positive outcome involving all of the political parties. A modest increase to our budget in relation to the overall Northern Ireland budget will make a dramatic difference to the arts and many areas of our social and economic lives that are enhanced by the arts. This has been a fantastic day for the arts; the important thing now is to maintain the momentum towards a positive outcome of the CSR consultation.”
To read the Hansard transcript of the Assembly debate click here (Rich Text and PDF)