Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, speaking at the Ballet Ireland Fundraising Luncheon


Ladies and gentlemen,

This has been a particularly significant seven days for dance in Ireland: Ballet Ireland’s new production Bold Moves opened last Friday to great praise; today the second annual fundraising lunch is being held by Ballet Ireland; and probably the most important development of all, on Sunday last the Taoiseach came clean about his love of dance by attending the final of RTE’s Dancing with the Stars!

I hope you’ll be glad to hear that the dance credentials around the Cabinet table do not stop there. I am proud to say that I learned ballet in Mount Anville junior school from Jan O’Reilly. I can still very vividly remember the excitement I felt as a little girl being brought to Swan Lake for my 10th birthday.

So it was a real delight to be asked by Ballet Ireland to speak at today’s event and it’s a great pleasure for me to be able to support this valuable fundraising event in its second year.

Support from both business and individuals for the arts plays a crucial role in supporting Irish arts agus ba mhian liom aitheantas a thabhairt do na comhlachtaí agus daoine aonair atá ag tabhairt tacaíocht ghníomhach do Ballet Ireland trí fhreastal ar ócáid an lae inniu

In my remarks today I’d like to talk about the theme of Bold Moves, from both an artistic and political perspective.

While its acclaimed current production is only a week old, Ballet Ireland has a long and distinguished record of bold moves in support of the art form’s development in Ireland. This Cinderella art form, has come centre stage, and a growing audience is developing, not just for ballet, but for dance across the board.

The development of dance and its audience, hasn’t happened by accident. It is the fruit of years of work and commitment by extraordinarily committed dance artists. Ballet Ireland’s genesis is in the bold moves made by Gunther Falusy and Anne Maher when they founded the organisation in 1998.

Ballet Ireland exists for the practice, the appreciation and the choreography of dance. Bringing choreographers of high international calibre to Ireland demonstrates its commitment to developing international relationships.  It offers Irish audiences the opportunity to engage with international work of excellence here in Ireland.

The commitment to take risks, and commission, create and support the making of new work has resulted in the critically acclaimed Bold Moves – a very fitting title.

This fantastic work includes the work of internationally acclaimed Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin is a distinctive contemporary dance work of a style rarely seen in Ireland.

French choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela’s Lost, a neo-classical work of great artistic sensibility which was created for Ballet Ireland in 2015, is showcased again. It was a major step forwards for Ballet Ireland and the renewal of ballet which the company has spearheaded over the past years.

And from Israel and France to our own Zoë Ashe Browne. Zoe first started her professional experience with Ballet Ireland, dancing in the leading roles of Juliet and Carmen. While she is currently pursuing a successful career abroad we are delighted to see her back on an Irish stage. Her choreography entitled Us is the special curtain raiser this week at the O’Reilly Theatre.

I want to acknowledge the important role of Dance Ireland, as the development organisation for all forms of dance in Ireland. I know Ballet Ireland and artists like Zoë have benefited richly from the support of Dance Ireland.

Crucially, this Government also has ambitious plans and has made bold moves in support of culture and the arts. The Taoiseach has made a very public commitment to double funding for culture and heritage by 2025. In Budget 2019 we increased arts and culture funding by 13.5% to €22.6m. This increased funding is tangible evidence of the importance attached to our cultural and creative heritage.

It was a priority for me to increase funding for the Arts Council and that’s why we improved funding by 10% to €75m. The Arts Council has provided almost €1.3m to Ballet Ireland since 2016 and I know that Anne and the board are deeply appreciative of this support.

The important thing is that the Government’s commitment to double funding is being made with sustainability in mind. Unlike the increases that we saw in the noughties, our increases will not be followed by massive cuts.

I will finish with a personal wish. I am hoping that the Irish people are ready to make a bold and compassionate move on Friday 24th May. They will vote on whether to reduce the waiting time for divorce from four to two years. As director of elections for Fine Gael, I will be working tirelessly over the next eight weeks to secure a yes.

We are asking the public to approve an amendment to the Constitution to remove the minimum living apart period for spouses applying for a divorce and to deal with this issue by legislation alone. We are also proposing a Bill to reduce the living apart period from four to two years.

Our current law makes divorce as difficult as possible. This does not protect families, it damages them.  I can recall the grown-up offspring of parents who went through intense animosity on their way to separation. She resented Irish family law for making an already nasty experience even worse by drawing it out over so long. It was experience like this that inspired my private members bill on divorce.

We are now asking for your support to ensure that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane and allows both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe.

I’d like to once again thank Ballet Ireland for the invitation to speak at this afternoon’s event.

Go raibh maith agat Dance Ireland freisin agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil libh go léir as éisteacht.

In an interview with The Guardian a number of years ago, Antonia Grove of Probe Dance Theatre Company in the UK said “Dance communicates in a way that no other artform can. It has a unique ability to reach people viscerally, energetically and poetically in a way that is both primitive and sophisticated. When we make contemporary dance choreography we are not working from any set vocabulary of language that already exists; we are searching for a new physical language that is specific to what we are trying to say, which is specific to every moment of every piece of work we make”

We owe a deep debt to the extraordinarily committed choreographers and dancers who make work out of movement.

Thanks to you for the bold moves in your past and we look forward to the magic to come.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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