Culture, Arts and Leisure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 28th June 2011.
I thank the Member for his question. My Department actively promotes cultural and sporting activities in the border areas as it does in all areas of the North of Ireland. There are many activities across my Department’s areas of responsibility, and I want to give him a few examples.
Northern Ireland Screen funds and works closely with three creative learning centres in Crossnacreevy and Armagh, as well as one in the Member’s constituency in Derry. Waterways Ireland manages the Erne navigation and the Shannon-Erne waterway and is preparing plans for the extension of the navigation from Upper Lough Erne to Clones in County Monaghan. Moreover, Sport NI, which has invested more than £11 million over the past three years in border district council areas, is also involved in cross-border initiatives to promote sporting activity on an all-island basis.
I thank the Minister for her answer. Given that Derry City Football Club plays in the League of Ireland and is a cross-border team in that regard, is the Minister considering funding the Brandywell stadium?
I do not know whether the Member is aware that I visited the Brandywell stadium on Saturday. I have to say that there was a hard sell. To be frank, the conditions in the Brandywell stadium are not befitting of the team. I am aware that it is managed by Derry City Council, and, through Derry City Council and the citizens of Derry, we need to pool our efforts to do what we can to promote better use of the Brandywell. That will happen only when there is a fit-for-purpose facility.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle, Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a cuid freagraí. I congratulate the Minister. I know that she visited the Brandywell on Saturday. Indeed, she took time out to meet Eamon Zayed, a Derry City footballer who was the subject of racist abuse, and I thank her for taking the initiative. In relation to sporting activities in and around Derry and other places, could the Minister give us some outline of what her plans are in relation to angling, particularly on an all-island basis?
I thank the Member for that supplementary question. To put it on the record again, the racist abuse that the player received will have no support from anybody in this House.
I suspect that my colleague’s senior colleague Mr McGuinness may have prompted him to ask his question about fisheries and angling. There are a number of fisheries and waterways attached to my Department. There are more than 60 fisheries available to the public on purchase of a licence and permit. My Department has distributed around £5 million in Peace II funding to develop water-based tourism in the sector over the past 10 years and has generated a great deal of angling and tourism around the border, particularly around the lower ends of Donegal. My fisheries officers maintain good links with their counterparts in the South, particularly in relation to lower and upper Lough Erne.
If the Minister agrees that participation in grass roots sporting activities qualifies as preventative spending in health terms, what are her plans for cross-cutting initiatives with the Health Minister?
I welcome that question. As recently as this lunchtime, myself and the Health Minister met to discuss, first, using our Departments to promote better health and well-being, which was an issue raised in a legacy report from a previous Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, and, secondly, joining up the Departments more through sports and the arts, particularly for better health promotion on suicide prevention and mental health, while also looking at physical health. We are looking at initiatives and events that we can use across different age sectors, because we are acutely aware that what may be OK for young boys may not be so for older people.
I think that the Member is probably hinting at the fact that where joined-up government can work together to take a collaborative approach to support those who are particularly vulnerable, that is what we need to do. If those are the Member’s sentiments, I fully welcome them.