Belfast City Council voted unanimously in support of a motion to reverse arts funding cuts in Northern Ireland. Politicians from Alliance, SDLP, UUP, Green Party and more spoke of their support for the motion presented for debate by SDLP Cllr Séamas de Faoite.
The motion states that Belfast City Council:
Recognises that Stormont Permanent Secretaries are being forced to take, without mandate, difficult decisions that should be taken by locally elected Ministers and a devolved Executive and Assembly;
Further recognises that too often the Council is forced to step in and financially support arts and cultural organisations who have lost funding from Stormont Departments, putting pressure on our ability to deliver existing arts and cultural schemes;
Calls for a reversal in cuts to the arts and agrees to join as a signatory to Equity NI’s latest open letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities;
Further calls for the restoration of a reformed Executive and Assembly to take decisions which can future-proof the arts sector and protect funding in the future.
This comes after the Northern Ireland Committee of Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, delivered an open letter to Colum Boyle, the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities on Friday 6 October which was supported by nine MLAs within days of its publication.
Before the Council meeting, 130 Equity members and supporters of the union’s ‘Save the arts, resist the cuts campaign’ rallied at Belfast City Hall, with speakers including MP Claire Hanna, MLA Sian Mulholland and Irish Congress of Trade Unions Deputy General Secretary Gerry Murphy. Equity President Lynda Rooke concluded the rally and led NUMBER people into the public gallery to watch the debate.
Belfast-based actor/director and Equity NI Committee Chair Stephen Beggs spoke for the Union in the chamber itself. The motion was passed unanimously and Belfast City Council is now a signatory to the open letter which asks “Who will stand up for the arts and pledge to reverse the cuts?” You can read the letter in full here.
This is the latest action stemming from Equity’s NI ‘Save the arts, resist the cuts’ campaign, after Arts Council NI budget cuts were proposed in April. Hundreds, including actors Ian McElhinney, Rachel Tucker and Adrian Dunbar, attended an Equity rally following the announcement of the cuts, while an Equity petition to the Permanent Secretary has since garnered over 12,500 signatures.
Lynda Rooke, Equity President said:
“12,500 people signed Equity's petition demanding more investment in the arts and no to further cuts, I echo this with the backing of 47,000 Equity members from across the 4 nations of the UK.
"We stand in solidarity with the motion being put before Council demanding councillors to vote yes to being the co-signatories to the open letter to Colum Boyle, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities.
"Invest in the arts; resist the cuts. To all artists good work, to all workers good art, to all people equity.”
Claire Hanna MP, said:
“A region like ours will thrive based on its human capital - on people who can think, create and interact and the arts sector excels at these skills, as well as at regenerating unused spaces, attracting investment and building cohesion.
"In our traditionally divided society it has also provided, for decades, naturally shared space and opportunities to better understand each other. Money invested in the arts creates an incredible return”