Northern Ireland

Carál Ní Chuilín criticised for having 'lack of awareness' about arts

Philip Hammond wrote on social media that Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín had "no notion" about the arts
Image caption The Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure said Ms Ní Chuilín refutes the claims

A former director of the Arts Council has criticised Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín for a lack of awareness about the arts.

Composer Philip Hammond said that the minister had "no experience in the arts".

Last week, he wrote on social media that Ms Ní Chuilín had "no notion" about the sector in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) said the minister "totally refutes" Mr Hammond's claims.

Speaking to Radio Ulster's Evening Extra, Mr Hammond said that a "lack of political awareness of the arts by politicians" was evident in an interview the minister gave to Radio's Ulster's Arts Extra last week.

"The arts minister is voted in as a politician by the people of Northern Ireland, then given that responsibility for the arts.

'Edge of disaster'

"That's her responsibility. If she doesn't know, as was clearly obvious from that interview, what is actually happening in the arts, then she should be taking advice from legal bodies that are constituted to do so."

The Arts Council has said that 37 organisations, including the Ulster Orchestra, have been warned of potential funding cuts due to financial restrictions from Stormont.

Mr Hammond said: "Arts are on the edge of disaster.

"The Ulster Orchestra, which I was very closely connected with for maybe 20 years, I know for a fact they cannot survive on the money they bring in in sponsorship and in box office.

"They have to have public funding."

A statement from DCAL defended the record of the culture minister and said it was wrong to suggest the minister should have no say in how money is allocated to arts organisations.

"The minister totally refutes the claims made by Mr Hammond, a former senior employee of the Arts Council.

"While he is perfectly entitled to protest the interests of art, he is wide of the mark if he believes that the key funder should have no role in determining priorities where public money should be spent."

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