DCAL is department for excellence and equality, and for the promotion of sustainable economics
Through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Sinn Féin is promoting inclusion and sustainability for the Irish language; acting as a champion for the best and brightest artists and sports-people; and breaking down barriers to participation and opportunity across society. Other motions are dealing with those issues.
But I now want to speak particularly on Motion 90 and detail, in particular, how I am promoting a sustainable economic model in my Department – by systematically improving economic growth while progressively delivering equality outcomes.
This work is too important to be left to the Departments of Finance in either Belfast or Dublin.That’s why every department should be a department of the economy; and every department should a be department for equality.
My Department is running the Executive’s largest capital programme in this term of the Assembly. Over £110 million of public money in being invested in three new stadiums for Gaelic Games, soccer and rugby.
Around £70 million alone is going into West Belfast with the redevelopment of Casement Park… contrast that with decades of under investment and discrimination since partition.
New social clauses are central to this agenda. These are about making public money work for the public, not just giving profit to private contractors.
These social contract clauses are built on the advances of the Good Friday Agreement and the Equality Agenda.
For the first time, I am applying the Section 75 equality duty as a purposive tool to actively promote equality, as well as assess impacts.
This has allowed Sinn Féin to design new social clauses, which ring-fence economic and employment opportunities targeted at sectors and areas of greatest inequality, as designated by my Department.
Contractors must now bring forward additional proposals to serve the needs and inequalities of local communities. Effective community consultation and participation is a pre-requisite.
I am determined, through social clauses, that living wages will become a constant; and that local firms will get their fair share.
And I am now increasing the marks awarded for social and sustainable criteria, against cost criteria, to a higher level than ever before.
I want, in particular, to commend the immense work of the late Inez McCormack on this agenda. Inez was a constant proponent of maximising social clauses and her advice was fundamental in helping Sinn Féin.
In November last year I secured a further £1.5 million each for Gaelic Games, rugby and soccer. This is being dispersed by my Department under the new core priority to Promote Equality and Tackle Social Exclusion and Poverty.
Ulster GAA is using it to improve and enhance social inclusion – in part through its Centres of Participation and Excellence, such as Garvaghey in Tyrone.
The IFA is taking new coaching and nutrition programmes into areas of objective need.
And Ulster Rugby has created eight new jobs focused on outreach, equality, health and social inclusion.
So no-one should underestimate the sustainable economic and social framework which Sinn Féin is now developing in the six counties through the Executive.
We are ensuring that DCAL is now a department for excellence and equality, and for the promotion of sustainable social economics. That is the only show in town.