Information Service

5 August 1998


Arts Minister, John McFall MP, today announced the appointment of Professor Brian Walker as the new Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as from 1 August 1998.

Professor Walker has been Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at The Queen's University of Belfast since 1993. He is a Council member and former President (1994-97) of the Belfast Society and served on the Northern Ireland Museums Council from 1993 to 1997. From 1995 to 1998 he was President of the Board of Governors of the Linen Hall Library, having served as a Governor since 1981. He has been a member of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland since 1996 and served as Chairman of its Creative Arts Panel (with responsibility for visual art, literature and traditional arts) since 1997.

The Minister said that the arts continued to have a vital role to play in enhancing the quality of life of all the people of Northern Ireland and added that he was confident that Professor Walker had the knowledge, authority and experience to lead the Arts Council into the new millennium.

Mr McFall also took the opportunity to thank the outgoing Chairman, Mr Donnell Deeny QC, for his contribution to the Arts Council since his appointment as a member in 1991 and subsequently as Chairman from 1993. The Minister said that Mr Deeny had provided strong and effective leadership during a period of momentous change for the Arts Council, including the transition from limited company to statutory body, the production of the Council's strategy for the arts and the advent of the National Lottery.


Professor Walker was born in Belfast in 1947. He was educated at Campbell College, Belfast, Magee College, Londonderry and Trinity College, Dublin. He graduated with a BA Hons in Modern History and Politics and obtained his PhD from Trinity College in 1976. After various research and teaching posts he was in 1979 appointed a lecturer in politics at The Queen's University of Belfast. In 1990 he became Assistant Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's, and in 1993 he was appointed Director.

His special areas of interest are literature, painting, photography and architecture. He has a strong background in writing and publishing: for over ten years he ran the Friar's Bush Press, publishing books on photography, architecture, biography and local studies; and his work for the Institute of Irish Studies has an important publishing brief, including areas of culture and art. For the last five years he has been one of the editors of the Irish Review which provides a forum for critical and creative writing throughout Ireland.

The post of Chairman attracts an honorarium of 8,000 (subject to review). Professor Walker's appointment is for an initial period of three years, and was made following an appointment process conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Public Appointments and associated guidelines published by the Commissioner, emphasising merit as the governing criterion for appointment.

Professor Walker succeeds Mr Donnell Deeny QC. Mr Deeny was appointed as a member of the Council in 1991 and then as Chairman-designate on 30 March 1993. He assumed executive responsibility as Chairman in January 1994.


Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council, which has existed for over 50 years, became a statutory body under the Arts Council (NI) Order 1995. Its principal functions are to develop and improve the knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts; to increase public access to, and participation in, the arts; and to advise government departments, district councils and other bodies on matters relating to the arts. The Council provides direct financial assistance to a wide variety of arts bodies; bursaries and commissions to artists to encourage and facilitate creative work; and advisory and management services to arts bodies, in areas such as marketing and sponsorship. Under the terms of the National Lottery Act 1998, the Arts Council is the designated body for the distribution of Northern Ireland's share of National Lottery proceeds for the arts. The Council's annual budget is in excess of 15m, including 7m to 8m of National Lottery proceeds.

The composition of the current Board is as follows:

Prof Brian Walker (Chairman)

Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at The Queen's University of Belfast.

Cllr Martin Bradley

Former Mayor of Derry. Senior Administrative Assistant, Western Health & Social Services Board.

Mr William Burns

Principal, Olderfleet Primary School, Larne.

Mr Sam Burnside

Director of the Verbal Arts Centre in Londonderry

Cllr Fred Cobain

Community development worker and former Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Mr Paddy Donnelly

Senior partner in the Belfast firm of solicitors, Donnelly and Wall.

Dr Tess Hurson

Assistant to the Director of the Armagh campus of The Queen's University of Belfast.

Mrs Rosaleen McMullan

Arts Development Officer, Craigavon Borough Council.

Ms Marnie O'Neill

Senior consultant in public relations and marketing.

Mr Glenn Patterson

Belfast novelist.

Ms Chrissie Poulter

Lecturer in Drama Studies at Trinity College, Dublin

Miss Irene Sandford

Well-known Belfast soprano now working as a voice trainer.

Mr Aiden Shortt

Senior Information Officer, Disability Action. Chair of Open Arts.