Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
National Cultural Institutions (National Concert Hall) Bill 2014: Discussion
Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh na finnéithe inniu. Níl aon amhras faoi ná go raibh a gcur i láthair thar a bheith soiléir. I dtosach, tuigimid an tábhacht a bhaineann leis seo agus an struchtúr a bheidh ann ag dul ar aghaidh amach anseo. In welcoming the representatives of the Department and the National Concert Hall today, I first wish to compliment the NCH on the work and the track record it has established to date. It is true that it is central to the cultural life both of this city and of Ireland.
I am pleased that reference was made to cultural tourism. Culture ranks exceptionally high in any surveys I have seen which studied visitor experience in this country. It often comes in the top three in such surveys. The importance of the National Concert Hall goes beyond what we would regard as the immediate perception, namely, a venue for performances. Many people might go as far as to say that for an up and coming performer to get onto the stage of the National Concert Hall is close to a player getting into Croke Park for an All-Ireland final. When talking about the National Concert Hall we are talking about a significant cultural institution.
My first response to the general scheme is that it is vital for any healthy project to examine its position in society and in a changing environment. That is evident in what the National Concert Hall is doing. It is going a step further in that it is also identifying the challenges on the one hand and the opportunities on the other. That is exceptionally important. It is also important that any institution of this calibre must be able to show that two thirds of its income comes from its activities and that it is not completely dependent on the State. That presents a challenge and I am pleased to see the inclusion of that point.
I was not fully clear on the type of subsidiaries which are being considered. Perhaps the chairman, Mr. Kearney, might be able to say a bit more about that. It is good that the committee has an opportunity to examine a Bill at the general scheme stage. Previously, it was done and dusted and that was it. We have the opportunity to examine various aspects of the Bill but my mind has been very much put at ease by what the chairman said about the modus operandithat has been employed and the setting up of a sub-committee. It seems to have been done professionally, which is good, because very often with something that might be regarded as not so much radical but certainly a fundamental change in approach, it is very important when an approach is agreed that one can build on it and no subsequent controversies will arise. The method that has been used is very important.
How proactive a role does the board play in the operations of the National Concert Hall? The chairman probably knows where I am coming from with that particular question. It is an important point because we have had controversy in recent days about another institution. The institution in question could have done without it. For that reason, the approach in this case could, in a way, mark our cards in the future in terms of the role of the board and how often it meets. I do not expect the board to deal with bookings but it would be nice if the chairman could expand on the matter. The only two areas on which I seek more information is the type of subsidiaries being considered and to what extent the board is proactive.
I wish those involved in the National Concert Hall well in the future. I do not mind putting on record my admiration for the Department and the work it has done and the accessibility of officials. From experience, that does not apply in any other country. That is most encouraging and helpful. It is one of the marks of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It has provided not just funding, which is one issue, but encouragement and understanding for the vision that arts and culture bodies have in this country.
A very good partnership exists between the Department, the National Concert Hall and cultural institutions generally.