Wednesday, 28 April 2010

North West 200

Last night I hosted the final media conference at Stormont for the 2010 Relentless International North West 200.

The North West 200 started in 1929 and this is the 81st year of the race.  It is organised by the Coleraien and District Motor club and it is a race with a long history and a great tradition.  It is also one of the fastest road races in the world.

In recent years my department, through Sport Northern Ireland, has contributed significant financial assistance towards health and safety improvements on the circuit, including £100,000 last year and a further £80,000 this year.  This is in addition to government funding of £135,000 given through the Events Unit to support the event.

The North West 200 attracts about 250,000 spectators and brings around £8 million into the local economy.  It is therefore a worthwhile investment and the race is the jewel in the crown of our road racing calendar.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Coleraine Ulster-Scots

A new Ulster-Scots Resource Centre is being developed by the Coleraine Ulster-Scots Regeneration Group.  The centre is based at 3a Union Street and the members have done an excellent job in fitting out the first floor of the building.

The Orange Hall was built many years ago on land provided by Hugh T Barrie, a Scottish businessman  who was also the Ulster Unionist MP for North Londonderry and it was opened on Easter Monday 17 April 1911 by Mrs Barrie.

I had the privilege of openign the centre and among those present were Gregory Campbell MP, Coleraine mayor Councillor Sandy Gilkinson and MW Bro Robert Saulters, Grand Master of Ireland, as well as Henry Millen chairman of the CUSRG.

European & Ulster Highland Dancing Championships

The European and Ulster Highland Dancing Championships were held in the Ulster Hall in Belfast on 9 and 10 April.  The competition attracted around 200 dancers from Scotland and around 100 from Northern Ireland.

It is very encouraging to see the growth in Scottish highland dancing in Ulster and is another illustration of the way that east-west connections with Scotland are being strengthened.

Forum for Local Government and the Arts

The Forum for the Local Government and the Arts held its 2010 agm in the historic setting of Clifton House in North Belfast.

I was delighted to be able to attend and set out for the delegates our vision for the development of the arts sector and the growth of the creative industries in Northern Ireland.  In the future local government will have an enhanced role to play in supporting the arts and in that context FLGA will also have a greater role.

Schools Cup sports reception at Stormont

Last night I hosted a reception at Stormont for four schools which had won sports trophies, with all of the finals around St Patrick's Day.  The schools were Ballymena Academy (rugby), Banbridge Academy (hockey), De La Salle from West Belfast (football) and St Colman's in Newry (Gaelic football).

When I was speaking at the reception I drew attention to our priorities for sport, which are around participation, performances and places - increasing access and participation, helping athletes to improve their performances and be the best they can be, and providing the places or facilities that meet the strategic needs of the sports.

Celtic Media Festival

The Celtic Media Festival has been taking place this week in Newry and I was invited by Cathal Goan to attend and officially open the annual festival.  This is the 31st year of the festival, which involves Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany, and it has previously been held in Belfast, Newcastle and Londonderry.

In the course of my address I spoke about the importance of the film and television industry and the new media as core elements in our creative industries and also provided an update on the DCMS funding for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and the new Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

Towards the end and in the context of some remarks about a 'shared and better future' I referred to the way in which the festival organisers described the participating countries as 'Celtic nations'.  If we are to recongise and respect the cultural diversity of Northern Ireland, is it appropriate to describe us as a Celtic nation?  Yes, there are some people who speak a Celtic language and there are many people who will regard themselves as culturally Celtic or even ethnically Celtic but that represents only one element in our diversity.  Is there not a need for a terminology that recognises that important fact?

CAL committee inquiry

I attended a meeting of the Culture Arts and Leisure Committee at Stormont to give evidence to their inquiry into Sport and Physical Recreation.

In the course of the meeting I referred to the importance of Sport Matters: The Northern Ireland Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation 2009-2019, which was approved by the Northern Ireland Executive in December 2009.  One of the key problems that the strategy seeks to tackle is the decline in adult participation in sport and physical recreation and Sport Matters sets out a strategy and a structure for implementation, embracing all stakeholders, to be overseen by the Minister of culture, Arts and Leisure.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Armoy & Kells Road-racing Championships

At Stormont today we had the launch of a new Armoy and Kells Cross Border Motor Cyle Championship, which is a partnership between the clubs at Army in Northern Ireland and Kells in the Republic of Ireland.

Thi is a new conceptr for motorsport in Northern Ireland with the two rounds of the championshp split between the two circuits on two different dates.

We all know the road racing traditions of Armoy and the legendary Armoy Armada and last year saw the inaugural Armoy Road Race event.  One year on there is a new championship event which will undoubtedly grow into a major annual sporting occasion.

Meeting with representatives of the deaf community

Nelson McCausland MLA with representatives of the deaf community - Brian Symington, Lorrainse Armstrong, Sandra Canning, John Carberry and Thomas Coyle

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Lisburn mounts a 400th anniversary exhibition

Lisburn Museum has mounted an excellent exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the town.  The museum is housed in the former Market House, which is a 17th century building andf the curator Brian Mackey took me on a tour of the exhibition and the adjacent Linen Museum.  Lisburn Museum was established by the council in 1979 and the adjoining Linen Museum was added in 1994.

This is the second local authority museum I have visited in recent weeks and again I was very impressed by the quality of the experience for visitors. 

Painting a brighter future in Seymour Hill

Trevor Hayes, a full time youth worker, with the Seymour Hill & Conway Community Network Re-Imaging Communities project shows Arts Minister Nelson McCausland some of the new mural work in the Seymour Hill area. The mural pictured replaces sectarian graffiti and depicts Northern Ireland sporting icons Dame Mary Peters, George Best and Joey Dunlop. This project was carried out by local young people and supported by the South Eastern Education and Library Board, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive Community Cohesion Unit and Lisburn Community Safety Partnership.