Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

About Us

Photograph of DCAL Headquarters, Causeway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) is one of 11 Northern Ireland Departments created in 1999 by the Department’s (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

In Northern Ireland it is the Government Department responsible for arts and creativity, museums, libraries, sport, inland waterways and inland fisheries, linguistic diversity, archives, and for advising on National Lottery distribution.

The Department also draws on the expertise of the Education and Training Inspectorate.

Our Core Divisions

The work of the Department is divided into five core divisions.

Culture: - responsible for arts and creativity; inland waterways; language policy; architecture and the built environment policy

Sport, Museums and Recreation: - responsible for policies on  inland fisheries libraries, museums, sport and lottery; and Northern Ireland's involvement in the  2012/13 Games Legacy.

Corporate Services: - responsible for issues relating to accounts and accountability, internal financial matters; governance support ; economic services; freedom of information; personnel issues; the day to day running of the department; media relations; Minister's Office & Permanent Secretary's Office;  statistics and research.

PRONI: - The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official archive for Northern Ireland.  It aims to identify and preserve records of historical, social and cultural importance and make them available for the information, education and enjoyment of the public.

Capital Portfolio Division: - responsible for overseeing the Department’s portfolio of capital projects, including Regional and Sub regional Stadiums Programme. The Division also has responsibility for developing the legacy of the City of Culture throughout the North West area.

Our Minister

Carál Ní Chuilín is the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for the North of Ireland. Carál began her political career as the elected Sinn Feín representative for the Oldpark ward in North Belfast in 2003.

In addition to being a life-long political activist, Carál has a particular interest in human rights, housing, community development and the Irish language. Carál was born and bred in the New Lodge area of Belfast, where she still lives.

Our Permanent Secretary

Our Permanent Secretary is Denis McMahon   pen_pic_denis_mcmahon_2-2.docx

Our Departmental Board

The work we do is organised and monitored by a Departmental Board. This is chaired by the Permanent Secretary and includes Deputy Secretary, Cynthia Smith; the Directors of Divisions: Culture*; Fergus Devitt (Director Sport, Museums and Recreation); David Carson (Director Corporate Services); Maggie Smith (Director PRONI); Aidan Cassidy (Programme Director (Transition); Joanna McConway (Director of Capital Portfolio); John West (Independent Board Member); and Marie Mallon (Independent Board Member).

*A head of branch from Culture Division represents the Division on a temporary basis due to the Director of Culture post being temporarily vacant.

The Departmental Board meets on a monthly basis to examine and take forward the Department’s strategic aims and objectives, manage Departmental resources and monitor performance objectives. It also sets the Department’s standards and values, maintains a transparent system of prudent and effective controls, assesses and manages risk and leads in organisational development.

Our Vision and Mission

The DCAL mission is "To promote social and economic equality, and to tackle poverty and social exclusion, through systematically promoting a sustainable economic model and proactively targeting meaningful resources at sectors of greatest inequality, within areas of greatest objective need, in the wider context of effectively developing tangible opportunities and measurable outcomes for securing excellence and equality across culture, arts and leisure, and a confident, creative, informed and healthy society in this part of Ireland.”

DCAL Business Plan 2015-16 (857KB) PDF Opens new window,

Our Values

Dedication - to excellence and making a difference.

Caring - about our customers, business partners, each other,our work, and the environment.

Ability – professional, knowledgeable, creative.

Leadership – which inspires.

Our Complaints Procedure

You can obtain a copy of our Complaints Procedure here (131KB)PDFOpens new window

If you would like a copy in another format or language please write to Minister's Office & Permanent Secretary's Office , Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Causeway Exchange,1-7 Bedford Street,Belfast,BT2 7EG.  Alternatively you can request a copy by telephone (028) 90515158  or by email

Our Resources

DCAL has a staffing level of 301 staff employed in a wide range of grades and disciplines, both administrative and professional.  

The Department's opening budget position for 2013/14 is £150.72 million (£116.8 million resource and £33.92 million capital). The Department has been allocated a further indicative budget of £180.64million (£106.31 million resource and £74.33million capital) for the final year of the current CSR period - 2014/15 Budget Allocations for 2013/14 – 2014/15

Click here to view the DCAL budget 2011-2015.

Our Sponsored Bodies

DCAL supports a wide range of sponsored bodies including the Armagh Observatory,Opens new window the Armagh Planetarium,Opens new window the Arts Council of Northern Ireland,Opens new window Libraries NI,Opens new window, Opens new window National Museums Northern IrelandOpens new window ,Opens new window the Northern Ireland Museums Council Opens new window, Northern Ireland Screen, and Sport Northern Ireland Opens new window. DCAL also co-sponsors (with its Irish counterparts) two North/South Implementation Bodies, Waterways Ireland Opens new window and the Language Body, comprising Foras na Gaeilge Opens new window and the Ulster-Scots Agency.Opens new window