The so-called ‘culture minister’ for the Six Counties, the DUP’s Nelson McCausland, has sent an extraordinary letter to museum chiefs in the North asking them to give more prominence to alternative views on the origin of the universe, Ulster-Scots and the Orange Order.
The minister’s move sparked a major row with Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, who said it was not the minister’s place to interfere.
“I have been working in museums over 20 years and I can’t recall in the UK an example of such blatant political interference,” he said.
“It probably happened in eastern Europe during the cold war but it is pretty unprecedented.”
Stormont Culture Committee chairman Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff criticised Mr McCausland’s letter as “wholly unacceptable”.
“He is incapable of acting as a minister when he is so partisan. He is hiding behind the rhetoric of a shared future to pursue a narrow agenda reflecting his pet interests,” he said.
Mr McCausland wrote to the trustees of National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) saying he wanted the issues given consideration in the short term.
Mr Taylor, however, said curators had the expertise to decide on their exhibitions and accused the minister of driving a coach and horses through the principle that ministers keep away from decisions about programmes.
McCausland is not the first person in his party to challenge the Ulster Museum. North Antrim DUP assembly member Mervyn Storey threatened legal action over its “promotion” of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The born-again Christian called for an “alternative exhibition” promoting creationism to be staged alongside evolution because the museum, as a publicly funded body, should be subject to equality legislation.