Sunday, 25 October 2015

Ní Chuilin congratulates Aisling Reilly on winning US Open Handball Championship

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated Belfast’s Aisling Reilly on winning the 2015 US Open of Handball.


Aisling adds the US title to the world and all-Ireland championships already secured this year.


Hailing Aisling’s achievement, Minister Ní Chuilín said: “The US championship title caps what has already been a phenomenal year for Aisling Reilly. Aisling is once again showing how Belfast and the north can produce the world’s best sportspeople.


“I had the pleasure of meeting Aisling at the recent opening of the new Béal na Carraige Handball Courts in west Belfast. She is an inspiration to girls who want to get into sport, and handball is easy to pick up and accessible to all.


“I commend Aisling’s club, St Paul’s GAC, and the work of the GAA in promoting handball to men and women across Ireland.”


Notes to editors

1.    More information on handball is available at

2.    Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Press Office by telephoning 028 9051 5047 or email DCAL Communications For out of office hours queries please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Ní Chuilín congratulates McKillop and Smyth on world gold medals

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop on winning gold medals at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha.

Jason won the T13 100m title while Michael was victorious in the T38 800m event.

Congratulating the athletes the Minister said: “Once again Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop are world beaters. It is testament to their continued hunger for success, combined with dedication and hard work, that they have become so dominant in their events.

“Jason has successfully defended this title, having won it in Lyon in 2013, and it further bolsters his status as the fastest paralympian in the world after his 100m and 200m success in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Paralympic Games.

“Michael has now defended the 800m world title twice, having also won in Lyon and in Christchurch in 2011. He will run in the 1500m final this Friday as he bids to defend that title as well.

“Once again we are talking about local athletes at the very pinnacle of their sports. I congratulate Jason and Michael wholeheartedly and pay tribute to their coaches, friend and families who support them throughout the year.”

The Minister also commended Niamh McCarthy of Cork on securing Team Ireland’s first medal of the Championships, a bronze in F41 discus, yesterday.

The Minister added: “Niamh McCarthy opened Ireland’s medal account at the Championships with bronze in her discus event, a fantastic debut for her at World Championship level.

“I commend Paralympics Ireland for the work they do in developing athletes from right across the island. They are an inspiration to people of all abilities. Hopefully we can see the Ireland team add to the medal tally before these Championships are over.

“We can also look forward to the Paralympic Games in Rio next year with excitement and genuine medal hopes.”

Notes to editors
1.    More information on the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships is available at
2.    Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Press Office by telephoning 028 9051 5047 or email DCAL Communications For out of office hours queries please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Artists, politicians & communities must work together and make life better - Ní Chuilín

Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, today responded to comments made in the media about the Arts.

Minister Ní Chuilín said: “Austerity is not the choice of my party or indeed any of the parties in the Executive. I am aware that the arts community and those who avail of their services are currently facing serious difficulties and challenges. 

“Hundreds of millions of pounds in cuts by the Conservative Government in London have continued to erode the block grant, impacting on the Executive’s ability to deliver core frontline public services. In the past I have been able to bid for additional funds but with frontline services now under intense pressure as a result of the British government’s cuts there are no additional monies. 

“My priority is to support those who are most in need in our society, for example, people who face exclusion, suffer from poor mental health or severe physical disability. I do not apologise for this. 

“Many within our society have been ignored and still struggle against the worst impacts of deprivation. My colleagues and I will continue to challenge this. I remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and since I became Minister in DCAL I have been determined that arts and culture are a means to promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion.

“Access to arts, culture and language is a right for everyone. It is not a privilege. We can all agree that arts and culture deliver a range of benefits to people who participate and engage in them. In the coming weeks I will bring forward a ten-year inter-departmental Strategy for Culture and Arts for public consultation.

“In my time as Minister, I have:

· provided the Arts Council with £72m in funding;

· supported major capital projects such as the Lyric and the MAC – almost £11m in capital funding to the MAC;

· secured £200,000 capital for the purchase of the Wheelworks ArtCart, a fully accessible mobile arts vehicle with the latest software and digital technology which delivers directly to communities;

· secured almost £400,000 for the purchase and refurbishment of the Beat Carnival premises in the Lower Shankill;

· supported the City of Culture, providing £6.5m in 2012/13 and £5.8m in 2013/14 (a total of £12.3m) in funding. Up to 1 million people attended or participated in events throughout the period;

· supported and will continue to support a number of programmes in the North West to embed a lasting legacy of the City of Culture, allocating an additional £6m between January 2014 and March 2015. This includes support for community cultural activity, capacity building and key events in the North West; 

· put in place a culture programme last year and have made available £200,000 this year. This is a cross-community programme of arts and cultural events and festivals delivered by cultural partners from across Belfast and also for the first time from a rural area. The programme will celebrate all cultural traditions on a co-ordinated and inclusive basis, with a primary focus on targeting deprived communities;

· ensured that funding of £200,000 has been made available this year to community festivals, including Féile an Phobail, ArtsEkta, Shankill Spectrum Centre, Belfast Film Festival, Eastside Arts. These festivals bring arts and culture right into the heart of the community.

“These examples are just a snapshot of what my Department is delivering in arts and culture. 

“My Department has also directly supported, and continues to support, a range of projects and groups right across the north that are bringing arts and culture to, among others, children and young people in care, prisoners and ex-prisoners, people with mental health issues, older people and people with physical disabilities. These are communities too.

“In addition, I am bringing forward a project focused directly at children in care to allow them to access and enjoy digital arts facilities as well as a scheme to give homeless people opportunities to participate in the arts.

“Through my work as an Executive Minister and also as a political representative I have been privileged to meet and work with a great number of people over the years. Artists are an integral part of the community and I will continue to champion the rights of all to take part in, to enjoy and access the arts.

“We still have a society where there is a widening gap between those who are more affluent and those less well off. This is leading to increasing levels of poverty. It is only by directly tackling inequalities that we will ever manage to change this. 

“In conclusion, I would suggest that we should work together and create an anti-austerity alliance which will champion the protection of essential public services. It is easy to criticise and destroy, it is harder to build. It
is only through working together that we improve things and I am keen to ensure that artists, politicians and communities come together and make life better for all of the public.”

Sunday, 18 October 2015

O’Dowd congratulates local teachers on winning teaching Oscars

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, congratulates two local teachers on winning gold at the Pearson teaching awards 2015 in recognition of their excellent teaching practices.  

Dinah MacManus, Holy Family Primary School, won Head Teacher of the Year in a primary school and Miriam Donnan, Fleming Fulton, has been awarded Special Needs Teacher of the year.

Speaking today, Minister O’Dowd said: “I congratulate Dinah MacManus and Miriam Donnan on achieving these awards, which are known in education circles as teaching Oscars.  

"This is a great personal honour and a tribute to the endeavours of both teachers.  The awards are also an accolade the schools involved and indeed to the quality of teaching in the north of Ireland.”

The Awards honour outstanding teachers and teaching and highlight just how vital success in education is to the health and wealth of country.

In conclusion the Minister said: “It is great to see our local teaching staff considered in such high regard by their colleagues, parents and indeed the pupils.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Teaching Awards were established in 1999 by Lord Puttnam CBE.  The Teaching Awards process offers the public the opportunity to recognise the teacher who has helped them most, through an on-line registration of their thanks. 

2. Out of sixty four categories, two local teachers were successful in receiving a “Silver” award which were announced in June this year. They were:

· Dinah MacManus, Principal of Holy Family Primary School, Belfast who won the Award for Head Teacher of the Year in a Primary School; and

· Miriam Donnan, Fleming Fulton School, Belfast who won the Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year.

3. All “Silver” winners are eligible to be considered for a “Gold Plato” award.  

4. Out of only eleven Gold Awards, both Dianah and Miriam have been successful.  

5. The Gold Plato winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on Sunday 18 October at London’s Royal Opera House, hosted by TV historian Dan Snow. It will be broadcast on BBC2 at 6.00pm on 25 October as “Britain’s Classroom Heroes”.

6. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign promotes the value of education. This year’s campaign aims to ensure that parents have information on schooling and that they are aware of the steps they can take to ‘Get Involved’ and support their teenager in achieving good outcomes at school. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. 

Visit  for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel:

7. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection at

8. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715 440, and your call will be returned.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Transcript of Employment Minister, Dr Stephen Farry's Twitter Q&A on Higher Education Big Conversation

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, hosted a Twitter Q&A on Friday 16 October. He answered 32 questions in the hour and the transcript is below.

Minister Farry now online taking your Higher Education Big Conversation questions. I'll start with questions submitted in advance. #askHE

Question 1 

@roywhite_ni: @niexecutive @NI_CRC How much do English Univ, comparable Queens&UU, get per student, via Gov grants & Student Fees #askHE


@roywhite_ni English unis receive (roughly) between £9k and £10k per student, depending on subject; NI is between £6.5k and £9.5k #askHE

Question 2

@hannahtorney #AskHE What are your thoughts on having subsidised fees for courses that would benefit the economy? STEM etc?


.@hannahtorney Could be an option. STEM key to economy, subsidising them now will not solve current funding issues. #askHE

Question 3

@lucy_s_michael: Dr. Farry, how do we stop NI universities moving twds casualised teaching which devalues role of expert staff? #askHE


.@lucy_s_michael We want NI unis to attract the best expert, research-engaged staff. A sustainable system can support this. #askHE

Question 4

@jjdalzell:.@StephenFarryMLA how do you rationalise an active HE disinvestment strategy relative to the substantial economic benefit from NI HE? #askHE


 .@jjdalzell I don’t rationalise it. HE is crucial for economic growth. That’s why we need to agree a sustainable solution #askHE

Question 5

 @rosscatt1: What hope is there of addressing poverty through growing a knowledge economy if the funding to HEIs in NI is slashed?#askHE


.@rosscatt1 Disinvestment is a risk to the economy. Investing in skills supports economic growth #askHE

Question 6

Pete_mullin43: @niexecutive Is an increase in tuition fees inevitable? #askHE


@Peter_Mullin43 There are lots of options, and not all involve higher fees. We need to find a solution right for Northern Ireland. #askhe

Question 7

@missdrums01: #askHE can you guarantee there will be uni places when I return to education? family of 3 and one on the way... or will i have to move away?


.@missdrums01 There will be places, but there may be fewer without a sustainable solution. I want to ensure adequate routes to HE #askhe

Question 8

@missdrums01@niexecutive #askHE do u think shrinking uni places will cause elitism in student places bc u want NI uni's to excell and invite intl's only


.@missdrums01 International students cover their own costs. They don’t impact on local provision. #askHE

Question 9

@antheirwin: How does closing courses at @Ulsteruni fit with providing access to a breadth of education in Northern Ireland? #askHE


 .@AntheaIrwin Course provision is a matter for @Ulsteruni. I want a sustainable solution to ensure adequate routes to HE #askhe

Question 10

@lucy­_s_michael: How will the loss of so many student places @UlsterUni and @Queens_Belfast affect aspiration in this generation in NI? #askHE


.@lucy_s_michael Loss of uni places highly regrettable. A sustainable solution supports wider participation #askhe

Question 11

@antheairwin: Won't closing courses at @Ulsteruni lead to increased numbers of our young people leaving NI involuntarily? #askHE


.@AntheaIrwin Fewer local places may lead to more people leaving NI. I want a sustainable solution to ensure adequate routes to HE #askhe

Question 12

@gorettihorgan: If UU is a regional Uni, why are all redundancies in Ulster Business School to come from Magee and Coleraine? #askHE


.@gorettihorgan All job loss regrettable but for universities to manage #askhe

Question 13

@FergalMcFerran: .@niexecutive Does Minister Farry accept that raising tuition fees in England has made an unsustainable funding system even worse? #AskHE


.@FergalMcFerran It delivers resources to institutions but raises other challenges. Understanding impact of English decisions is key #AskHE

Question 14

@Fermanaghautisminfo: #askHE 70% of ASD kids go to mainstream sch yet only 15% of ASD adults are in FT paid employment. What more will you do to halt this fail?


.@FermanaghAutism We have good DSAs in unis but open to how could do better. Plus Disability Employment Strategy out for consultation #AskHE


Question 15

@ved017: will closure of UU mod langs negatively impact on HE internationalisation agenda #askhe


.@ved017 All course closures regrettable. But international agenda still strong. Other means to provide language skills for business #AskHE

Question 16

@gorettihorgan: How will the loss of so many student places @UlsterUni and @Queens_Belfast affect aspiration in this generation in NI? #askHE


.@gorettihorgan Our universities remain a great option. We also have amazing new higher level apprenticeships plus strong FE #askhe

Question 17

@bridgesbb:@niexecutive Is there a cross-border dimension to student funding which could be explored to support development of the Magee campus? #askHE


.@BridgesBB We can discuss cross-border collaboration on provision but we also need to expand student flows in both directions #askhe

Question 18

@misstwice: @niexecutive what exactly does a 'sustainable solution' entail, please? #askHE


.@MissTwice It means sufficiently resourced to address the needs of the economy and society. Must be long-term. #AskHE
Question 19
@fergalmcferran:.@niexecutive Does the Minister believe that as a collective the Executive recognises the value of HE in N. Ireland as he does? #AskHE



.@FergalMcFerran Yes. Very significant issue. Need a long-term solution that has cross-party support. #AskHE

Question 20

@daydreamerkidx: what do you consider to be a "sustainable solution"? We can't end up like England/Wales or USA with students facing astronomical debt #askHE


.@daydreamerkidxx It means resourced to address needs of the economy & society. Not for students to carry full cost. Must be longterm #AskHE

Question 21

@antheirwin: What does @Ulsteruni s proposal to close Modern Languages courses mean for inward investment and a global outlook for NI? #askHE


@AntheaIrwin Inward investors look for a range of skills. There are a range of business language courses still available #askhe

Question 22

@lucy_s_michael: @niexecutive @AntheaIrwin Dr. Farry, are you saying that modern languages are not important to inward investment? #askHE


@lucy_s_michael @AntheaIrwin No they often are but there are many options for providing what is required, including both HE and FE. #AskHE

Question 23

@antheirwin: If a @Ulsteruni course is cut from the only campus accessible to a student, won't they be denied a university education? #askHE


.@AntheaIrwin Support is available to help students with travel costs. Course consolidation is a consequence of budget constraints #askhe

Question 24

@gorettihorgan: Have we stopped worrying about the "Brain Drain" from NI? Will we now force even more of our young people to Universities elsewhere? #askHE


.@gorettihorgan No. Good if young people can expand their horizons but real dangers that people don’t return #askhe

Question 25

@missdrum01: #askHE are u working strategically with other depts to plan& execute bringing jobs/investment for longterm employment here?


.@missdrums01 Yes DEL works with InvestNI & others to support inward investment and job creation especially Assured Skills programme. #AskHE

Question 26

@ved017 how is widening participation agenda to be facilitated with cuts - esp if this is a metric in forthcoming TEF? #askHE


.@ved017 Widening Participation remains a priority. Still holding unis to account. But cuts carry risks. #AskHE

Question 27

@ved017: #askHE does the minister have an idea of a model of sustainability he would like to apply here? if so, can he give us a hint?


.@missdrums01 Big Conversation is in order to inform options for Executive. Not for students to carry full cost. Must be long-term. #AskHE

Question 28

@morelandrj: @niexecutive #AskHE Higher demand is forcing out applicants from poorer backgrounds. How does this fit with Widening Participation?


.@MorelandRj We know the dangers of cuts, hence the need for the Big Conversation to get long-term solution. #AskHE

Question 29

@thomascarvill: @niexecutive Why does the broken student finance system rely on the parent's income, ignoring the student's own earnings? #AskHE


.@ThomasCarvill It relies on student’s entire household income. #AskHe

Question 30

@stevedonnelly95: Do you agree sustained investment in, and upskilling of, the labour force in the north west is crucial to alleviating poverty here? #askHE


.@SteveDonnelly95 Yes. There are so many social and economic reasons for investing in skills across a broad front. #AskHE

Question 31

@fergalmcferran:.@niexecutive With societal division estimated to cost over £1billion annually, is HE & FE losing out due to political failures? #AskHE


.@FergalMcFerran I have been highlighting these distortions to our resources in NI for well over 10 years. #AskHE

Question 32

@jackierrr: @niexecutive @MissTwice How can social/economic needs be met if those who can't afford to study in UK are denied a uni education? #AskHE


.@Jackierrr @MissTwice We have many other pathways including FE and apps. #AskHE
#Askhe That’s it. Thanks for taking part in the HE Big Conversation Twitter Q and A. Keep the conversation going at