Assembly 2017: a guide to Arts policies of Political Parties in Northern Ireland

The next election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will be on March 2nd. Although the Arts will certainly not be the only consideration when it comes to casting your vote, for reference, here is a list of the main political parties’ policies on the arts in Northern Ireland. We have not made any attempt to distinguish what may or may not pass as ‘the arts’, we have merely presented the information as found. If there are any mistakes or omissions, we welcome corrections and additions.

Alliance Party

(from Alliance Manifesto 2017, p64-65)

The government has a role in promoting culture and the arts. This allows us to develop creativity amongst our society. There is also a wide body of evidence that investment in arts and leisure has significant benefits for individual wellbeing and for our economy.

Alliance supports investment in arts and leisure at all levels. In order to make sure this investment is sustainable under current funding pressures, we will:

• Commit to raising arts spending to at least the average spend on arts in these islands per capita, and review how to ensure that this spending effective.
• Establish an Arts Funding Review to examine if this funding can directed in a more sustainable manner. Specifically, we would ask it to examine the historic underfunding of the arts compared to other nations in these islands. We would also ask the review to examine more sustainable funding arrangements such as; three-year budgeting, endowments and improving business models within arts and cultural organisations in key areas such as financial management, fundraising, marketing and audience development.
• Adopt a specific strategy to improve access to the arts by sections of the community who have lower-than-average uptake rates.
• Develop a formal protocol to ensure that sectarianism, racism or any other form of prejudice does not occur at artistic and cultural events funded by public money.
• Establish an integrated strategy for cultural tourism. This strategy must provide a full appreciation of the unique cultural heritage we have to offer, and how these can be developed, managed and projected to a wider audience.
• Ensure that Northern Ireland’s art and culture is promoted globally. Countries such as the Republic of Ireland and Scotland have successfully used increased global visibility of their arts and cultural output as part of a wider package to raise their international profile.

NI Conservatives

(Under ‘Social development, culture, arts and leisure – standing up for working people and combating dependency’ from The Conservative Party Manifesto Stormont Assembly Election, 2017, p9)

We believe that sport and culture play a vital role in a happy society. We want to see a multitude of cultures in this part of the United Kingdom encouraged and enjoyed in an atmosphere of tolerance, generosity and respect.

Democratic Unionist Party

No mention of the arts were found within the DUP’s 2017 Assembly Election Manifesto, released as an addendum to the manifesto for the 2016 Assembly Election, or under the ‘Our Policies’ section of the DUP website.

Green Party

(from The Green Party Manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2017, p14)

Just like in 2016, theatres and other arts organisations are still struggling under the funding cuts, which still undermine jobs and arts programming. There need to be better connections between investment in the arts and the contribution that it makes to the economy through job creation and leisure. Communities thrive on their historic cultural links. These should not be eroded by a focus on profiteering and vanity projects.

The Green Party will:

  • Develop ‘art contract clauses’ similar to ‘community benefit clauses’ for multi-million pound film and screen projects in Northern Ireland, to ensure that money finds its way to the grassroots arts scene
  • Support core investment in the arts at both local and Executive-level in order to further realise the value and potential of the arts in Northern Ireland
  • Bring forward an Irish Language Act

People Before Profit

(under ‘Policy on young people’ from PBP Manifesto Assembly Elections 2017, p25)

Why aren’t we nurturing the abundant artistic talents of young people in every estate in every town and city? There should be resident artists in every community centre and youth facility. As in the case of sports, it would cost less in the long term than seeing culture and art as irrelevant to the youth of working class areas. Given the chance, our young people through arts will challenge the consensus of the local establishment and produce beauty to enhance all our futures. Cuts to the arts sector has had a negative effect on vulnerable young people whose access to arts services has been slashed.

Progressive Unionist Party

No mention of the arts were found on their listing of policies at

Social Democratic and Labour Party

(From SDLP Manifesto 2017, p21)

The SDLP is committed to supporting community arts and the development of our artistic talents as economic drivers. To ensure that this important aspect of our society is kept on the agenda, the SDLP will form a Cultural Advisory Group to the Minister and introduce the long awaited Culture and Arts Strategy.

The SDLP is fully supportive of Derry City and Strabane Council and Belfast City Council’s joint bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Sinn Féin

No mention of the arts were found in Sinn Féin’s Assembly Election Manifesto or the Policies section of their website.

UPDATE: We were directed to a Policy Paper for Arts, Culture & Leisure from 2001 on the Sinn Féin website by someone who had sent this article to the policy and was sent back the link by way of policy.

Traditional Unionist Voice

(from TUV Manifesto 2017, p29)

TUV recognises the important contribution which libraries make to communities. We want to see well-resourced library provision. It is important that everyone – particularly children and the elderly – have access to the print and electronic resources which libraries offer. It is important that local libraries are protected from closure.

Ulster Unionist Party

(taken from ‘The Arts’ paper, under Key Policies, from

What we would do:
• Include the Arts in the next Programme for Government, outlining the Executive’s acknowledgement of the importance of the arts and demonstrating a commitment to them.
• Establish a working group between the Departments of Communities, Education, Health and the Economy to develop and agree cross-cutting priorities for the arts for the next 10 years.
• Work with our eleven Local Government administrations to ensure cohesion in planning targets and outcomes.
• Provide a longer term allocation of funding – with agreed aims and outcomes giving the sector a clearer picture of what they have to work with. This can bring a greater level of stability back to the sector and allow for lasting benefits from projects.
• Empower our teachers to recognise and nurture the creative potential of our children.
• Develop a 10-year strategy for excellence, challenging the arts sector, the creative industries, our universities, FE colleges and business to co-design a strategy to future-proof our place as competitors on the world stage.
• Work with our universities and FE colleges to explore opportunities for partnerships that can both help increase the capacity of our smaller arts organisations, and in turn give practical experience to students.
• Promote apprenticeships using the ‘Unlocking Creativity’ programme as a model to release individual creativity and ensure young people are prepared for careers in creative industries.
• In the arena of competitive funding, favourable support will be presumed for projects which demonstrably enhance the overall cultural health of an area.
• Work with NI Screen to develop a 10-year film strategy to increase production output.

(from 2017 Assembly Manifesto, under ‘Recognising our future economic success depends on our educational success’, p19)
In the lead up to an exit from the European Union, now more than ever we must lay the ground work to maximise every opportunity to grow and develop our economy. We must identify the current and future needs of our economy and ensure that young people have the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, as entrepreneurs and as innovators. We would work with employers in the private and public sector including arts and community groups to ensure that we have a rich future here in Northern Ireland.

Workers Party

No mention of the arts were found in their Election Manifesto: ‘The Socialist Alternative.’

UPDATE: The Workers Party tweeted us a link to their most recent statement on arts & culture, in response to an initative Visual Arts Ireland.


  1. Rob Hilken

    Thank you for your excllent update to your 2016 Arts Policies list. I have updated it a little and also included some replies from parties to emails I sent asking for further information. Please feel free to use any of this extra information as well. I have fully credited your work in our updated.

  2. John

    A vote for the arts is a vote for the future of Northern Ireland moving away from partisan voting.

  3. Geraldine

    I don’t want to be too cynical here but although their manifestos do show their intentions, and what they rate as “vote winning” policies, if things stay as they are it will all be decided from Westminster. While this system could have a lot of flaws, it may be possible that arts funding would get in through the back door?

    Arts for Tourism!


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