Carál Ní Chuilín

Carál Ní Chuilín MLA ([kaˈɾˠaːl̪ˠ nʲiː ˈxɪlʲiːnʲ]; born Caroline Cullen,[1] 18 December 1964) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and former Provisional IRA member. She has been a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast North since 2007 and served in the Northern Ireland Executive as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure until 2016.

Carál Ní Chuilín

Carál Ní Chuilín (cropped).jpg
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Belfast North
Assumed office
7 March 2007
Preceded byKathy Stanton
Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
In office
5 May 2011 – 6 May 2016
First MinisterPeter Robinson
Arlene Foster
Deputy First MinisterMartin McGuinness
John O'Dowd (Acting)
Preceded byNelson McCausland
Succeeded byabolished
Personal details
Caroline Cullen

(1964-12-18) 18 December 1964 (age 55)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political partySinn Féin
Spouse(s)Gerard Magee
ResidenceNew Lodge, Northern Ireland
Alma materOpen University
Queen's University Belfast
WebsiteCarál Ní Chuilín MLA

Personal lifeEdit

Ní Chuilín was born and raised in the New Lodge area of Belfast.[2] She graduated from the Open University in 1994 with a BSc in Social Studies after completing a degree which she began whilst in prison. She later received a master's degree in Management from Queen's University Belfast.[3]

Republican activityEdit

Ní Chuilín was an active volunteer in the IRA. In 1989, she was arrested after trying to place a booby-trap bomb under the gates of Crumlin Royal Ulster Constabulary station.[4] At Belfast Crown Court the following year, she was convicted of firearm possession, possession of explosives with the intent to endanger life, and attempted murder. Ní Chuilín was sentenced to eight years in prison, but she was released after four years.[5] She worked for ten years as coordinator of Tar Anall, a project for republican ex-prisoners.[2]

In 1999, Ní Chuilín was one of two founding directors of Coiste na nIarchimí, a company described as "the umbrella organisation for republican ex-prisoner self-help groups throughout Ireland".[6] The company was struck off in 2011 after failing to provide accounts, and Ní Chuilín resigned her position.[7]

Ní Chuilín has been active with Sinn Féin since her release from prison and represented the Oldpark electoral area on Belfast City Council from 2005 to 2007, when she was replaced by Conor Maskey following her election to the Northern Ireland Assembly.[8]


Ní Chuilín was elected in 2007 to the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Sinn Féin member for North Belfast. Re-elected in 2011, she was on 17 May 2011 elected by the Assembly under the D'Hondt method as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

In this capacity Ní Chuilín became the first senior Sinn Féin representative to attend an association football match involving the Northern Ireland team, when it defeated the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park on 10 August 2011, but she did not attend until after the playing of the Northern Ireland Anthem of God Save The Queen, and she commended "the very real efforts that have been made by the IFA to tackle sectarianism at their matches".[9]

In September 2011 Ní Chulín's Department launched Líofa 2015, a project aimed at encouraging people in Northern Ireland to learn, teach and speak Irish. Among those taking up the challenge to achieve conversational fluency by 2015 was Judith Gillespie, Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and some 1509 other PSNI officers.[10]

In August 2012 Ní Chuilín revealed a £3m investment programme to improve facilities for boxing in Northern Ireland, saying "Over £3m will be invested through Sport NI; it's an initial investment, but it is to make sure that boxing clubs have the facilities that are fit for purpose, because at the minute many of them don't."[11]

In 2011 former IRA prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed Special Adviser to Ní Chuilín. This appointment prompted much public controversy, as McArdle had been convicted of involvement in the murder of Mary Travers and the attempted murder of her father Tom Travers. Ann Travers, sister of Mary, spoke to the press of her anger at the appointment, and repeatedly demanded that McArdle resign.[12] McArdle was later moved from the post, and in June 2013 the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a bill to bar anyone with a serious conviction from being a special political adviser.[13]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Sinn Féin website biography Sinn Féin.
  3. ^ Sinn Fein ‘the enigma’ and it’s ministerial appointments Eamonn Mallie.
  4. ^ Police were ordered not to shoot bomb mission Sinn Fein minister Caral Ni Chuilin Belfast Telegraph
  5. ^ "I'd have no problem cheering Northern Ireland, says Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin". Belfast Telegraph.
  6. ^ Coiste na n-Iarchimí launches major new initiative An Phoblacht
  7. ^ Terrorist past of members of group awarded £1.3m News Letter
  8. ^ Belfast City Council Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Belfast City Council.
  9. ^ "Caral Ni Chuilin attends NI game at Windsor Park". BBC.
  10. ^ report on Líofa 2015 (in Irish)
  11. ^ "UTV - NI boxing to get £3m investment". UTV.
  12. ^ Sinn Fein: Mary McArdle's departure isn't linked to provo murder Belfast Telegraph
  13. ^ Special adviser bill passed after marathon Stormont debate
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Kathy Stanton
MLA for Belfast North
Political offices
Preceded by
Nelson McCausland
Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Office abolished