Speech on Budget 2016 by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, to Dáil Éireann
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As has been said in this House throughout the afternoon, this Budget is about not just spreading the recovery, it’s about securing the recovery.
As Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I am acutely aware of the impact the economic crisis had on the sectors under my remit.
Budgets across my department were hit very hard following the economic collapse, reflecting the burden shouldered by people right across this country.
I am very pleased, therefore, to have secured a 12% increase in my Department’s Budget for 2016.
Thanks to the economic recovery, we are now in a position once again to invest in our arts, culture and heritage, which will benefit communities nationwide.
Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme
My Department’s biggest priority for next year is the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.
€48 million is being allocated for the initiative, which will ensure that the commemorations are a wide-ranging nationwide, year-long series of events.
We have developed the centenary programme across seven key strands; State Ceremonial, Historical Reflection, Community Participation, An Teanga Bheo – the Living Language, Youth and Imagination, Cultural Expression and Global and Diaspora.
The majority of funding for Ireland 2016 – approximately €30 million – will be spent on a series of flagship capital projects, which include:
- the GPO Interpretative & Exhibition Centre, which promises to be one of the most exciting new visitor experiences in the city centre
- the new visitor centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh in Ros Muc;
- the new Tenement Museum at 14 Henrietta Street in Dublin which will depict what life was like for the ordinary people of Dublin at the turn of the last century
- Refurbishment works at Richmond Barracks
- The redevelopment of the Kevin Barry Rooms at the National Concert Hall
- Expansion and improvement works at the National Archives.
- There is also provision for the development of a 1916 Commemorative Centre at the National Monument at 14-17 Moore Street and for a number of other important commemorative projects, including at Glasnevin Cemetery and the Athenaeum in Enniscorthy
These projects – which we have called the permanent reminders – will add to our cultural offering and will leave a lasting legacy from the commemorations.
The Centenary programme is designed to reach into every community across the country.
As I recently announced with the Taoiseach, 1,800 events will be held nationwide, in addition to the formal State programme and other set piece events.
Our Cultural Institutions are running special programmes and exhibitions to help us reflect on the past, and we have developed an extensive Schools Programme with the Department of Education, which I hope will catch the imagination of our children and encourage them to explore their past and ambitiously imagine their future.
Supporting arts and culture
Budget 2016 contains a number of initiatives which are targeted at supporting artists and the arts community.
Core funding for the Arts Council will increase by €2.5 million when compared to the 2015 Budget.
A once-off €2m funding injection for our Cultural Institutions, which I secured late last year, has also been retained for 2016.
The Cultural Institutions will also benefit from specific funding under the Ireland 2016 programme.
I am delighted that we are also in a position to give Culture Ireland an additional €3 million next year, for its ambitious programme ‘I am Ireland’, which forms part of the international element of Ireland 2016.
This will provide direct support for Irish artists to bring their work abroad.
This €3 million allocation also includes some additional support for the Abbey Theatre.
I am also pleased to confirm that despite unwarranted speculation earlier this year, there will be no changes to the artists’ tax exemption.
When I travel around the country and visit various cultural venues, I am always struck by how hard the arts community has worked over the last six or seven years to weather the crisis.
Many arts centres are badly in need of investment, in terms of their physical infrastructure.
It is very positive, therefore, that thanks to the economic recovery, I am now in a position to introduce a new €3million grant scheme for works at arts and cultural centre across the country.
This scheme is expected to run for the next six years.
I am aware that there is a need for further investment in the arts. Of course there is.
But let me be clear: this is the best arts budget in years.
As well as the various initiatives I have just outlined, the €48 million being provided for the commemorations will fund a huge range of artistic and cultural initiatives.
Arts and culture are at the centre of the commemorations.
This Budget should be seen as the first major step in restoring funding for the arts in a sustainable way.
Film and TV sector
The film and TV sector are a very important element of our creative industries, supporting thousands of jobs across the country.
Section 481 – the film tax incentive – is a crucial part of our policy approach to the sector.
Last year, Minister Noonan announced enhancements to the scheme, which were broadly welcomed by the sector.
He committed to keeping the scheme under review, and I was very happy, therefore, when he announced that the cap on eligible expenditure is being raised to €70 million.
That’s a 40% increase on its current level.
This will help to attract further big budget productions to these shores.
It’s important to remember that when major production companies come here, they hire local crews and create local jobs.
I note that Minister Noonan again indicated in his Budget speech yesterday that he will continue to keep the scheme under review, and I look forward to continuing working with him in this regard.
The €2 million increase in my Department’s heritage programme is also extremely welcome.
I am a passionate supporter of heritage, and I appreciate the huge difference that heritage groups make in local communities right across this country.
Our built heritage is a vital part of our cultural story, and I hope to be in a position to announce details of direct support for built heritage shortly.
This year’s budget allocation will also allow for the continued operation and management of our 6 national parks and 78 nature reserves and continued compensation, relocation and restorative measures required under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.
The Department will continue to prioritise the support of the Irish language and the sustainable development of our island communities in 2016.
Funding allocations for the Islands and for the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language have both been increased for 2016 and the development of a cultural centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh, Ros Muc, Co Galway as part of the Ireland 2016 programme will be completed.
The Government’s approach to Budget 2016 has been to manage the economy responsibly, while securing the recovery.
I would also like to take the opportunity this evening to highlight some of the other key measures in this year’s Budget, which will have a real and positive impact on people’s everyday lives.
Cuts to the Universal Social Charge, the extension of the free pre-school year and the extension of free GP care to the under 12s; all of these measures will make a big difference for middle income families across the country.
A number of targeted measures have been introduced for the farming community, and I am particularly pleased to see the introduction of a new €550 income tax credit,
This is a hugely significant move, and begins the process of tax equalisation for self-employed and PAYE workers.
I’d also like to highlight one particular issue on which I worked very hard before my appointment as Minister.
Commercial road tax rates have been a major obstacle for the road haulage industry – in particular the huge disparity between rates here and in the North.
Following my election to the Dáil in 2011, I worked very closely with the Irish Road Haulage Association, along with my colleague Deputy Aine Collins, to highlight their concerns.
Michael Nooonan listened.
Yesterday he announced that he was simplifying commercial motor tax rates and – crucially – he is capping the maximum at €900.
That will save some drivers as much as €4000 per year.
It’s a game changer and I would like to thank Minister Noonan for his open approach.
Job creation will continue to be the number one priority for this Government.
This will lead to additional employment, less tax, and more money to invest in services and sectors such as the arts and heritage.
2016 promises to be a very exciting for this country, as we commemorate the event that led to the foundation of this State.
As our economy continues to improve, we must ensure the benefits are spread across this country.
Budget 2016 is a very good first step in achieving that aim.