I have not had any direct discussions with the First Minister and deputy First Minister on the Arts Council’s recently launched intercultural arts strategy. However, I understand that the Arts Council consulted OFMDFM officials during the development of the strategy and that an OFMDFM official sits on the implementation group.
I thank the Minister for her response. Will the Minister join me in congratulating a young swimmer from my constituency who has just received a silver medal and wish her all success for the upcoming Olympic Games? We are very proud of her.
Given the vital role that the ethnic minority development fund will have for all groups availing themselves of the intercultural arts strategy, has the Minister discussed with OFMDFM the inordinate delays in the administration of that fund? If not, will she engage with the office to distribute those funds as soon as possible?
Taking the last matter first, I have not had discussions with OFMDFM about this fund or about any details surrounding it in terms of delays or anything else. As I said in my answer to a previous question, OFMDFM officials sit on this body and so will be aware of this. I will certainly pass the Member’s comments on. Along with others, I congratulate Sycerika McMahon on her achievement. I think that everyone in this House, and even outside it, is extremely proud of her, her coaches, her family and her community.
I absolutely do agree. Even this morning, in the Long Gallery, there was a Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) event, and a group representing north and west Belfast called Artability. Through the promotion and facilitation of the arts, they offer facilities for people with disabilities who come from what has been known as both sides of the community, and have done so for a long time.
I have also seen the work of Draw Down the Walls in my North Belfast constituency, where people have used the arts at interfaces to talk about some of the very challenging issues that adults sometimes cannot bring themselves to discuss. I have also seen the role of the arts, through the media of drama and play at St Mary’s recently around the Ulster covenant, and I have seen the power that that medium has in fostering and developing better relations. I am looking forward to supporting the work that we have done thus far in developing and supporting further work to meet those aims.
I am due to meet my arts branch in three weeks to look at the actions from that strategy and, indeed, other outstanding actions in relation to the arts. I think that that is important. I do not think that anyone is doing this from a mischievous point of view. If there are delays, the rationale for them needs to be explained to me. We also need to look at resolution of delays or perceived delays. I will certainly be doing that. The meeting will be in mid-June, and I am sure that this will come up again in future Question Times. I am happy to write to the Member on the issue he has raised and provide the answer that he needs.