NI minister in Arts row

Northern Ireland arts minister Caral Ni Chuilin has ignited a row over the place of arts in politics.

Speaking at the Belfast Irish language arts centre An Culturlann, Ni Chuilin last week said she wonders why artists ignored the Republican struggle.

"Why, in the mouth of some of the biggest human rights abuses, in my opinion, did the whole notion of resistance not transcend to art? Why did art turn its back on communities?”

That's something I have struggled with and still struggle with," she added.

But her comments have drawn fire from arts figures. Writer Malachi O’Doherty  described her “ as fundamentalist as her predecessor Nelson McCausland, who sought to use the influence of his office to have Creationism enshrined in the Ulster Museum.”

He added that her comments were “a signal to funded groups that we have orthodoxies they'd be as well subscribing to if they want to keep their money.”

Playwright and theatre producer Fionnuala Kennedy said Ni Chuilin was ignoring a huge swathe of art which referred to the troubles. "This type of work has been happening on different scales across different genres.”

She also accused the arts minister of perpetuating “the dangerous myth about the arts sector in NI, that we're all champagne-swilling, top-hat wearing snobs.”

Meanwhile the Arts Council of Northern Ireland met Ni Chuilin in a last ditch attempt to avoid a further 20% cut in arts funding.

The Northern Ireland executive’s investment in the arts has fallen by around a quarter in four years, from £14m to £10m.

ACNI chair Bob Collins said that the arts made a major contribution to “the Executive's social and economic targets and, notably, the minister's own priorities in respect of promoting equality, tackling poverty and social exclusion."

But the minister responded that the cuts were a result of pressures "coming from the Conservative Government".

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