HC Deb 21 June 1990 vol 174 cc1097-8
2. Dr. Woodcock

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what proposals he has to develop the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

Last year I introduced the cultural traditions programme aimed at promoting the greater understanding and appreciation of the shared cultural heritage of Northern Ireland and of its diversities. The budget this year is about £1.4 million.

In addition, as part of education reform in Northern Ireland, cultural heritage will be taught as a compulsory cross-curricular theme. The key aim is to enable pupils to know about, understand and evaluate the diverse and distinctive aspects of their cultural heritage.

Dr. Woodcock

Does my hon. Friend agree that that programme and those which I hope he will introduce in the future can make a significant contribution to breaking down the alienation between the two communities?

Dr. Mawhinney

Many people would agree that it is unfortunate that aspects of Northern Ireland's cultural traditions have become politicised. There is much to be gained through understanding and appreciating the richness of the cultural diversity in Northern Ireland, and we are seeking to promote that.

Mr. Trimble

Will the Minister assure us that the programme will pay due regard to the cultural heritage of the majority of people in Northern Ireland? The Ulster museum is currently putting on an exhibition entitled "Kings in Conflict" which helps to repair the serious omissions caused by the political censorship of the exhibition held in London in 1988. Will he take steps to cover the financial loss with which the Ulster museum is threatened which is almost entirely due to the failure of the museum in Dublin to honour its undertakings to show the exhibition there, too?

Dr. Mawhinney

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. As to the second part, we are already involved in helping to support the "Kings in Conflict" exhibition.

Mr. Kilfedder

May I congratulate the Minister on the community funding? He is aware that much needs to be done to promote a greater interest in the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland which, together with the rest of Ireland, is intermingled with that of Britain and Scotland. That has been so throughout the centuries and even before Christian times—St. Patrick was not the first Brit to go to Ireland. Does he agree that the more people become aware of that rich cultural heritage, the closer together people will come in Northern Ireland? Perhaps that closeness would also be shared between the people of Ireland and Britain.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind personal remarks. I entirely agree with his analysis and appreciate his support for a variety of cross-community and cross-cultural activities over the years.