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Foilsithe ag Lurgan and Portadown Examiner, 31/03/2016

Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has said that we'd be living in a very different place without the clear benefits that DCAL has delivered.

Under the Civil Service re-structuring initiative, which will see the number of departments reduced from twelve to nine following the May Assembly elections, the majority of DCAL functions will transfer to the Department for Communities, while others will form part of the remit for the Department for Infrasctructure and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

In a written statement to the Assembly the Minister said: "Without DCAL, the developments would not have taken place at our Stadiums, the Ulster Museum, the Grand Opera House, the Crescent Arts Centre, the Playhouse Theatre and the Culturlann Uí Chanáin Centre in Derry, nor would the inspiring new Public Record Office at the Titanic Quarter have been opened."

"Without DCAL's support the new Lyric and MAC theatres would not have been developed. Without DCAL our Libraries would not have been protected nor would we have improved facilities at more than a dozen locations."

Ms Ní Chuilín said that during her time as Minister, her department had made a major and lasting contribution to bettering the lives of many people across the north and pointed to the economic and community benefits of social clauses, where, for example, more than 75 training and employment opportunities have been created for the long term unemployed, students and apprentices through the Regional Stadia Programme.

She said:"Over the past five years my Department has invested over £500 million in ensuring the cultural, arts and leisure sectors maximise their potential across a range of areas making a significant contribution to the economy and health and well-being.

"Throughout my time as Minister, I have focused DCAL's resources on the Promotion of Equality and Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion (PETPSE). This has been a core principle that has underpinned all my work. My department has also continued to lead the way in its commitment to the inclusion of social clauses in capital projects."

"Where DCAL spends public money the focus has been on how it can benefit those who are most vulnerable in society. For too long sections of the community have expressed feelings of having been shut out from participation and where people are exluded we lose the benefit of their knowledge, their experience and their diversity. I am proud of my Department's achievements across the sector and in reaching out to those who have been marginalised."

The Minister spoke of her pride at the range of projects that grew out of the highly sucessful City of Culture, the success of Líofa and also referenced the opportunities that will be presented, particularly for female sport, through major football and rugby tournaments which will be held here next year.

She said: "I am very proud of the work that my Department has delivered and that this work will continue with many exciting projects in the pipeline. In particular, I look forward to the completion of a Culture and Arts Strategy following the recent public consultation which has indicated overwhelming support for a strategy. This will be the first over-arching, government-led culture and arts strategy for the North."

"I am investing £750,000 in a new Irish language community hub at Aonach Mhaca in Armagh and have committed to an Irish language academy, or GaelAcadamh, in the Gaeltacht Quarter of Belfast. I am also delighted with DCAL's investment in the new Ulster-Scots Hub and Visitor Centre at Corn Exchange Belfast and the further investment of £4million in Ulster-Scots related projects."

She concluded by saying that in the future there is an opportunity to streamline some of the bureaucracy and duplication that exists at present.

She said: "Currently over 80% of my budget is delivered through Arms Length Bodies and the staffing and administration costs involved are estimated to be in the region of £12million per annum. The current arrangements create layers of bureaucracy and duplication and Arms Length Bodies also replicate support functions that already exist within my Department, including Human Resources, IT, Accounting and accommodation functions. This is an issue that can be progressed further moving forward."

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