Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Parity: Esteem or Outcome?

Monday saw the first Culture Questions of 2012 at Stormont, featuring an encounter between the current Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, and a former incumbent, Gregory Campbell.

"Mr Campbell: When the Minister goes down the route of providing strategies for the Irish language and Ulster-Scots language and heritage, will she ensure that Ulster Scots gets proportionate funding so that we see the strategy fully developed with manifest outcomes for people in the Ulster-Scots community? The issue of disproportionate funding arose throughout direct rule, because Ulster Scots received significantly less than the Irish language for many years. It is only in recent years that that has begun to be redressed.

Ms Ní Chuilín: I thank the Member for his question. I am sure that, if he speaks to people from the Ulster-Scots community, he will find that I have been nothing but fair in the way that I have dealt with everyone, particularly on the issue of language, culture and heritage.

I am not going to have one section of the community receiving funding above and beyond what is proportionate and what it is entitled to, regardless of what was there in the recent or distant past. As I said in my previous answer, I anticipate that money for those strategies will come not only from my Department but from my ministerial colleagues. The money will be given out proportionally; it will be done fairly and to meet the needs of the community. That is what is important. It is about meeting people's needs rather than those of politicians."

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 18 May 2009, Mr. Campbell had described eliminating the "disparity in funding for Irish and Ulster Scots" as "one of my objectives" since taking up the portfolio, something he suggested would be achieved through a reduction in funding for Irish. That policy now appears to be in the process of being reversed. Like Sinn Féin before it, the DUP is now discovering that for a party to be sure of retaining influence on cultural policy, DCAL must be among its first choices during the d'Hondt procedure.

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