Speech by Minister Heather Humphreys on the Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion on the Arts
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A Cheann Chomhairle,
I wish to first of all thank the Deputies opposite for tabling this motion on the Arts.
Unfortunately due to new Dáil speaking arrangements, I can only contribute once to today’s debate, so I won’t be able to respond to the issues raised, but rest assured I will be taking note.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to set out the Government’s commitment to arts and culture – including the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to progressively increase funding to the arts as the economy continues to improve.
Indeed the opening line of the Programme’s section on Arts, Culture and Heritage recalled how our arts and culture were highlighted during the successful 1916 Commemorations, and how they were seen to be intrinsic to the Irish State itself.
The cultural contribution to the 1916 Centenary Commemorations should be seen as a demonstration of what can be achieved.
It is a demonstration of the value of investing in arts and culture.
And it can be an inspiration for this new Partnership Government – in partnership with all who are committed to our arts and culture – to deliver more for all of our people.
I believe that we have an unparalleled opportunity to capture the cultural collaboration we have experienced in this centenary year.
The arts and our culture have been centre stage.
The commemorations have not just led to increased funding for the arts, and therefore artists, they have also reinvigorated our interest in our culture and our pride in our Irishness.
I have seen how groups and organisations across the cultural sector, the public sector and indeed the private sector have worked together – for the first time – this year.
And crucially, the commemorations weren’t just focussed in Dublin, they were spread right across the country.
Now, we have the chance to build on that collaboration, and ensure that an appreciation and understanding of the vital nature of culture and creativity remains at the heart of everything we do.
For me, that means rethinking how we approach the arts.
It means that we don’t just say that the arts and culture are good for tourism and jobs.
But rather we state clearly that supporting culture and creativity is vital if we want to create both a fairer society and a thriving economy.
I agree wholeheartedly with much of the sentiment of the motion before the House this evening.
The arts are absolutely essential to the wellbeing of the Irish people and there is no doubt that a thriving arts and culture sector makes a hugely positive contribution to the Irish nation and to the Irish psyche.
I want to assure Deputies, and indeed members of the greater arts community, that the creation of a larger Department with a greater remit will not in any way diminish the importance of arts and culture within Government.
On the contrary a larger Department with wider responsibilities will bring greater weight to bear in promoting the importance of arts and culture right across Government.
I find it disappointing, in fact, that many people seem to be overlooking the mutually beneficial opportunities which exist for the arts and rural Ireland.
The wider responsibility of rural and regional affairs sits well with the commitment in the Government Programme to strengthen the role of arts and heritage at local level.
In that respect, I will be speaking to my colleague Simon Coveney about establishing cultural units within local authorities, to include arts and heritage officers, librarians and museums, to strengthen the role of arts and culture locally.
There is a wealth of creativity in rural Ireland that can sometimes be overlooked or overshadowed.
I hope to address this perceived disconnect and encourage creativity countrywide through my new brief.
On the issue of funding; the situation is improving.
Funding for the Arts Council and the Film Board is up, and of course there was very significant additional investment in the arts this year through the centenary programme.
Much of the allocation of over €18 million in current funding for Ireland 2016 went to supporting cultural events which underpinned the Programme, including the enormously successful Reflecting the Rising day out on Easter Monday and the Centenary TV Programme that night, delivered in partnership with RTÉ.
The Culture Ireland I am Ireland Programme is supporting young and established artists to present their work internationally.
Retaining as much of this money as possible is a priority for me as we head into the Budgetary and Estimates processes.
About €31 million capital funding was also provided for major Centenary projects including the new and very successful commemorative and visitor centre at the GPO, Teach an Phiarsaigh, and the Tenement Museum.
There are continuing demands for capital investment in our National Cultural Institutions and I will work to build on the good progress to date.
In terms of broader cultural policy, work is continuing on Culture 2025.
My Department is continuing to consider inputs on the draft document from the Steering and Expert Groups which I established and I expect to forward a draft for consideration to the relevant Oireachtas Committee shortly.
The publication of the framework policy will be a starting point and will be followed by action and implementation.
Many of the other matters in today’s motion are also contained as commitments in the Government Programme including:
- The continued implementation of the Arts in Education Charter;
- The important role of local authorities;
- Further encouraging strong, mutually beneficial links between the business community and arts organisations,
- Maximising the contribution of the film industry;
Indeed I have taken a considerable personal interest in the film industry.
Fine Gael in Government has significantly improved the Section 481 Film Tax Relief.
The Revenue Commissioners estimates that projects availing of 481 relief in 2015 supported 1,200 jobs, with total combined expenditure of almost €160 million.
The Irish Film Board produces excellent results from its relatively small budget and I believe that if that budget is progressively increased, the creative potential will be great.
I look forward to working with all partners and across all parties of this House to develop and implement initiatives which support and encourage arts and creativity, for the betterment of our society as a whole.