An SDLP Delegation led by Patsy McGlone MLA, including Claire Hanna MLA, Pat Catney MLA and Councillor Malachy Quinn met with the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities and senior officials to highlight the need for a period of sustained reinvestment in the arts as in the Republic of Ireland and Wales.
The MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone said, “The arts are an integral part of our society culturally, socially and economically. Art projects act as a tool for community empowerment in areas of disadvantage and deliver thousands of jobs across the industry here in Northern Ireland each year.
“The continued disinvestment in arts funding over recent years has cast a huge blow for the sector, accumulating to a 40% decrease in real terms. Additionally, the disparity in capital expenditure between Northern Ireland and the Republic accumulates to around £8m per year. This is unacceptable. Evidence clearly shows that the arts actively help to tackle social isolation, increase tourism and provide expression for vulnerable people and marginalised communities. Therefore we made it clear to the Department that continued cuts will have deep and rippling affect across our society.
“Today we discussed at length the need for urgent future investment in the sector, as well as developing the arts in a strategic way to promote economic development, address community cohesion, help tackle isolation and promote overall community wellbeing. Given that Northern Ireland’s Arts & Culture industry is worth £151m GVA annually to the local economy, the arguments for continued investment write themselves.
Cllr Malachy Quinn added, “The value of the arts cannot be overstated. Over the years I have seen participants overcome low self-esteem, children with autism feel empowered and people recover from mental ill-health due as a result of local arts provision.
“It is imperative that funding streams are identified and allocated to ensure the preservation of the sector and the value it adds to our society.”