It is important to recognise the value of culture, arts and leisure in encouraging economic growth as well as maximising quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland. Cultural identity is an important aspect of our make-up and in that respect Ulster Scots heritage, culture and language should be advanced and developed beside the significant resources currently being deployed on the Irish language. Unionism has been on the cultural back foot in the past as we have had to defend our heritage, however the Ulster Unionist Party want to change that so we can celebrate our history with a sense of pride. Our museums, libraries and the arts have a crucial role to play in society and although resources are limited, we believe that public funds must still be dedicated to areas with an evidence base of delivering benefit to society.
Under the imminent review of Departments within the Northern Ireland Executive, the Ulster Unionist Party would propose that the Culture, Arts and Leisure department be dissolved. This is due to the fact that currently 80% of its current budget is administered by arm’s length bodies, and the remaining 20% has enhanced synergies with potential to develop in other departments such as the Department of Education and a potential Department of the Economy.
Sport continues to be integral for improving health outcomes and facilitating increased sharing and integration between communities. The Olympic and Paralympic Games have been a huge success and the legacy of London 2012 must be used as a springboard for sporting development here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially for our young people, and it is up to sporting administrators and politicians to grasp it.
Politics and Culture
For too long culture has become a political football, with key priorities being overlooked within the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. This blinkered approach cannot go unchallenged within the carve-up at the heart of government. The closure of a number of libraries as well as reductions in library opening hours has caused much consternation in the communities affected and this situation needs to be managed carefully, especially among rural communities with limited access to these important resources. The arts have suffered from cuts at a time of budget reductions across Departments.
The Economy and Culture
Whilst efficiency savings are necessary within the context of the current economic climate, clearly adequate facilities and high quality programmes must be maintained. We believe that the creative industries have so much potential but the Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF) has been slashed and there is no long term financial commitment to this important sector. As regards sports, large capital projects such as the £138 million stadia project must be matched with sufficient emphasis on participation at grass roots level. We also have to stop the carve-up and inefficiency demonstrated in the allocation of funding which was characterised in the stadia project.