Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at COVID-19 briefing

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A dhaoine uaisle,

Is féidir linn díriú ar ár gcultúr, ár n-oidhreacht, agus ár dteanga náisiúnta ag an am deacair seo.  Is féidir linn brath orthu chun árdú croí agus árdú meanma a fháil gan trácht ar na buntáistí eile a thugann siad dúinn.

I’d like to welcome Kevin Rafter, Chair of the Arts Council, and Tania Banotti, Director of Creative Ireland.

In 2018, as part of the Decade of Centenaries programme, the National Museum hosted the exhibition ‘The Enemy Within: The Spanish Flu in Ireland, 1918-19’.  It was both sobering and heart-breaking. It reminded us of the struggle for life overcome by our great-grandparents. None of us could’ve imagined that two years later Ireland would be visited by the greatest public health emergency in the State’s history.

We have taken extraordinary and unprecedented measures to protect our fellow citizens. Closing our places of learning, our cafés, pubs, theatres, galleries and venues, and our cultural institutions, and curtailing access to our National Parks and Nature Reserves.

These actions are slowing the spread of Covid-19, flattening the curve. They are reducing the pressure on our hospitals, saving countless lives.

And in the midst of this, there has been an outpouring of creative and artistic responses to our new circumstance.

Our poets and musicians have taken to online platforms to share their work, to raise our spirits, and to help us interpret the world around us.


Creative activity is fundamental to our personal and collective wellbeing at this time.  We want to provide everyone with more opportunities to be creative.

Firstly, we will be supporting opportunities for creativity at home. I now want to challenge all of us to use the resources of arts and culture to get creative, to have fun with creativity and to learn a new creative skill.

  • Creative Ireland is offering creative resources online to help you #CreateAtHome.
  • RTE School Hub and RTE Culture are showcasing material from the National Cultural Institutions, national arts organisations and the Arts Council across their platforms. The RTE School HUbv has been a huge success. For example 240,000 tuned in on TV on Monday and Tuesday. That means that 4 out of 5 f 4-14 year olds watching TV at that time watched the RTÉ Home School Hub.
  • Fighting Words have online resources to support Creative Writing for both Primary and Post-Primary levels.
  • Creative Schools, a cross government partnership, is finding imaginative, innovative ways to support children, young people, schools and families across the country.
  • Creative Ireland and Healthy Ireland will support wellbeing through a partnership with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.
  • Tá an deis ag gach uile duine anois a grá agus a ghrá don Ghaeilge a threisiú agus a spreagadh. Is féidir tabhairt faoi chúrsa Gaeilge ar líne, nó cuidiú lenár mbailiúcháin náisiúnta béaloideas a thras-scríobh. Beidh TG4 ag tabhairt an pobal Gaelach le chéile ar líne, agus ag tabhairt ardán dár gceol traidisiúnta
  • Waterways Ireland developed a series of educational resources for children to bring the waterways and the outdoors to life in a fun, creative manner which RTÉ is featuring this on their Home School Hub.


Secondly, we will be supporting our artistic community in bringing more of their work to a wider audience.

  • A new €1m scheme will support Irish and Irish-based professional artists to create new writing, new music, visual art, painting photography and sculpture;
  • In a partnership with RTE, and others, we will present a broad range of cultural, heritage and language content from archives and new sources working with bodies such as Druid and Other Voices.
  • We are supporting a new online initiative. Working with Facebook Ireland, Culture Ireland is operating a new grant scheme IrelandPerforms for Facebook Live.
  • A short film will be aired each day on the RTE.ie/culture website, in partnership with Screen Ireland;
  • TG4 will partner with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for a reimagined Fleadh Ceoil and TG4 Molscéal in collaboration with Ealaín na Gaeltachta, TechSpace and others.
  • Finally, the Abbey’s Dear Ireland project will see 50 writers producing monologues to be performed by 50 actors in April.

I should add that I am delighted to see that the BAI – the Broadcasting Association of Ireland – has today announced that funding allocated in the round of the Sound and Vision Funding Scheme will facilitate the production of 126 projects based on lrish culture; heritage and experience; global affairs that affect the lrish State; media literacy; and adult literacy.  Projects will be broadcast across 45 different channels including community, commercial and public service broadcasters.


Now I want to mention something special that we are going to do, very soon.

Ireland has always been known for our ability to shine a light in a dark world.  On Easter Saturday evening

We are asking everyone to Shine a light for all the people who are sick, for those who have lost their lives and their loved ones.  To remind us that love and hope are always with us, shine a light for our frontline staff, our healthcare workers, the people who are keeping us going through these dark times.

We will lighting up public buildings around the country, and in our Embassies around the world.  Our Peacekeepers in the Middle East will shine their light.

I am inviting  everyone today to join in and to be part of the light, to be the light in the darkness.  It can be the light of the smallest candle or a lighting up a ten storey building.   Let’s shine a light together for the people we love, people who we know are now sick or grannies and grandads we can’t see, or our friends we can’t visit these holidays. Shine a light for whoever is in your heart

I am calling on our amazing creative community to get involved, in any why that is appropriate to you: create art, dance, music, poetry, or song to be part of this collective endeavour.

I am inviting our media to join in and help us all connect with this initiative, and I am delighted that RTE has a big range of activity planned to support the idea.

But especially , I am calling on all the young people out there who are about to start their Easter holidays –  Help your family to make this special – design and make the light or bring down the light from the attic.  Or get online with your friends to make something much bigger, paint a picture or decorate your house and garden with lights, or bake a cake with candles even if it’s not your birthday! You can share your pictures of your handiwork with your family or on #ShineYourLight on Easter Saturday.  And watch out for mine!

I am confident that arts, culture and creativity will play an important role in bringing healing to the nation as we emerge from this unprecedented challenge.  This week the Government launched The Community Call, recognising the power of community in Ireland.  The arts create and sustain community. Never has the importance of personal and collaborative artistic endeavour been more important.

Mo bhuíochas libh as ucht a bheith anseo inniú agus fanaigí slán sna seachtainí atá romhainn.

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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