Nelson McCausland, our Minister for Culture and the Arts has managed to turn Northern Ireland into a laughing stock across the world.
The focus of much criticism of the Minister has been on his insistence that creationism be promoted, and while he has thereby turned himself, and thereby the executive, into an object of ridicule, this masks the much more serious issue of Ministerial interference.
Museums in Northern Ireland are run by an arms length organisation, National Museums Northern Ireland. While they are accountable to DCAL, and through DCAL to the public, the whole point of such bodies is that they should have operational independence.
The text of the Minister’s letter does not appear to be publicly available, but reported accounts make it seem that he was attempting to influence the types of exhibits and exhibitions displayed by the Museum in accordance with his own personal interests and beliefs. Surely the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to expect that their museums will be run independently and professionally, as they are at present, without undue interference from the minister in charge. It is perfectly proper for any member of the public to make suggestions as to displays and topics for display, and I am sure such suggestions come in on a regular basis. I have no doubt they are considered by management on their merits; but the Minister who holds the purse strings is the very person who should not do so. He imperils the independence of the board of trustees.