Speech to the Dáil on Budget 2017 by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD
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I welcome the opportunity to address the House this evening
about the key measures being introduced as part of Budget 2017 under the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
As the House will be aware, my Department was expanded when the Government was formed, to include the wider portfolio of rural and regional affairs.
I am pleased to report that the first Budget being delivered for this new broader portfolio includes a number of funding increases across a wide range of schemes which will benefit both the arts and cultural sectors, as well as communities in rural Ireland.
I will speak first about the arts, culture and heritage sections of my Department.
2016 was a very special year when the nation remembered the pivotal events of 1916 which ultimately led to the foundation of this State.
Communities right across the country responded to be commemorations by staging their own arts and cultural events; events which allowed communities nationwide to interrogate and celebrate our history.
2016 has been a fantastic year for our arts and culture.
At home and abroad, more than 4,500 events have been held under the umbrella of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.
Our artists and our creative thinkers helped us consider the events of 100 years ago and reflect on what has been achieved in this country over the last century.
Now, as the year draws to a close, I want us to build on the positive legacy which has been laid by the commemorations.
I want to build on the goodwill and the engagement we have experienced throughout the year.
In particular, I want to see the arts and cultural sectors benefit as the economy continues to improve, and I want us to re-emphasise our commitment to supporting creativity and innovation.
I am very pleased, therefore, to have announced a series of funding increases across the arts and cultural bodies under my remit, which will have a positive and distinct impact on arts provision around the country.
I am allocating an additional €5 million for the Arts Council, which is an 8% increase in its annual budget, the largest increase in its budget for nine years.
This additional funding will allow the Arts Council to continue to enhance supports to artists and arts organisations around the country on both a small and large scale, from locally-based groups to the Abbey Theatre.
All of our National Cultural Institutions are receiving an increase in funding, including an additional €650,000 for the National Museum of Ireland.
On top a €200,000 increase in day to day funding, The National Gallery will receive an additional €1.5 million next year, to allow it to open its newly restored Miltown and Dargan wings.
This new expansion and restoration project, which has received more than €30 million in State investment, will transform the Gallery into a world class exhibition space, and represents a hugely exciting new chapter for this outstanding cultural institution.
It is my hope that the Gallery’s major extension will also draw substantial additional visitors every year.
The Irish Film Board will also receive an increase in funding in the order of €2 million, delivering on a commitment in the Programme for Government.
This will bring the Film Board’s annual funding to over €16.5 million, and represents a 14% increase in its annual budget.
The increase in funding will allow the Board to invest in even more Irish talent in the year ahead, and it follows on from a very successful year for the Irish film sector in 2016.
Culture Ireland, the agency which promotes Irish artists overseas, will receive a €1m boost in its core funding in 2017, which will allow it to showcase the best of Irish creativity on the world stage.
An additional €1m also is being allocated to assist the Heritage Council in its work, which will benefit communities right across the country.
Each of these agencies has warmly welcomed the increases in funding, and I hope to further build on these positive increases in the years ahead.
I have also secured an additional €5 million for the delivery of a Culture 2025/Ireland 2016 Legacy Programme.
I will be announcing further details of this initiative in the coming weeks – it will focus on improving arts and cultural provision in communities, as well as a range of other measures.
All of the measures to support art, culture, heritage and film re-affirm the commitment of this Government to progressively increase funding for the arts as the economy improves, as committed to in the Programme for a Partnership Government.
The increase in funding levels across a wide range of agencies and bodies under my remit also reflects the importance which this Government attaches to promoting and supporting our artistic and cultural strengths, and supporting jobs in our creative industries.
I would also like to deal with the misconception, which was put forward in this House yesterday, that the Arts budget is being cut by 16%.
This was caused by those who rely on the blunt figures of the Budget Book for their Budget Day analysis.
To be clear: once off funding in the region of €49m was allocation to my Department for the commemorative programme this year.
This money funded a once in a generation series of events.
And crucially, the majority of the money – roughly €31m – went towards a series of capital projects, including the new visitor centre at the GPO, Richmond Barracks and the Kevin Barry Rooms at the National Concert Hall.
This money was not repeated this year, because these projects have been completed, and indeed they will leave a very positive lasting legacy from our commemorations.
If you take a look at all of the key agencies under my Department which fund arts and culture, you will find that core funding is up across the board.
This will have a real impact on communities, artists and arts organisations across the country, and is much more important than figures in a budget spreadsheet which can be easily misconstrued.
On the rural affairs side of the Department, there are increases across a range of schemes which will provide a boost to rural Ireland.
As committed to in the Programme for a Partnership Government, an enhanced Town and Village Regeneration Scheme will be delivered in 2017.
I have trebled the funding for the scheme in 2017 – up on the baseline amount of €4 million to €12 million.
This will allow for continued cooperation between communities, including local business and Local Authorities to enhance amenities and facilities that improve the quality of life for locals.
I also intend to run a pilot scheme in 2017, to encourage more residential occupancy in town and village centres.
Details on this scheme are being finalised by my officials.
Funding is also made available for preparations for the roll-out of broadband under the National Broadband Plan in 2017, and the House will be aware that my colleague Minister Denis Naughten has allocated significant funding for both the roll out of the National Broadband Plan and for the improvement of mobile coverage in rural areas.
The increase in funding for the Heritage Council will also benefit communities in rural Ireland and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme will operate again in 2017 as will continued support of our archaeological and built heritage.
There will also be increases in the recently re-opened CLÁR Scheme and the Rural Recreation Schemes in 2017.
While these initiatives will individually make a contribution to rural development, it is their combined impact, along with other initiatives across Government, which will make a real and sustainable difference to rural Ireland.
Co-ordination of these initiatives right across Government will be delivered through the Action Plan for Rural Development.
Work on the Action Plan is well underway, and I will be publishing it later in the year.
The Budget includes a number of positive measures from my Cabinet colleagues, which will have a very positive impact on rural Ireland.
For example, Minister Creed has announced details of a new low cost finance scheme for farmers, while Minister Varadkar has announced improvements to Farm Assist and has increased the number of places on Rural Social Schemes.
This is a strong indication of the cross Departmental approach which this Government is taking to tackling the challenges facing rural Ireland.
My Department will continue to prioritise the support of the Irish language and the sustainable development of our island communities in 2017.
Funding allocations for Gaeltacht Support Schemes and Irish Language Support Schemes are both being increased for next year.
Funding is also being increased for the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language, which will allow for this essential strategy to be further progressed in the year ahead.
Údarás na Gaeltachta, which provides critical support for enterprises in Gaeltacht areas, will receive an allocation of €3.25 million for its current programme expenditure and maintain its capital allocation of €6.687 million.
Combined with an extra capital allocation of €2.4 million which has been secured for it this year, this will allow the agency to continue to support job creation in Gaeltacht areas.
My colleagues Minister of State Michael Ring and Minister of State Sean Kyne will tomorrow speak to the House in greater detail on the areas of the Department dealing with Regional Development and the Gaeltacht.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.