Dáil debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Priority Questions

Arts Funding

5:15 pm

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Through their work, artists, writers and musicians address social and political issues and shape the way that we view a particular topic. They challenge us to think outside of our comfort zone and to understand the rationale for debate or change by engaging us interactively.

By their very nature, arts and culture organisations lead and reflect societal change. As we work together to ensure that people are heard and listened to, we will see that the stories we tell, the work we make and the society we share begin to change shape for the better. The voices of the excluded, the less powerful and the marginalised, are amplified and broadcast. This change is inherently powerful. Artistic freedom must be recognised and valued.

Historically, artists and writers around the world have played a major part in effecting societal and political change. I think particularly of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Mexico, the work of a particular favourite of mine, Maya Angelou, during the civil rights struggle in 1960s America and that of our own Seamus Heaney during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Their writings prompted debate, which ultimately brought about change.

In Ireland, the Arts Council is the primary body that allocates funding to artists and arts organisations. Although funded by my Department, the council is statutorily independent in its funding allocations and I, as Minister, cannot influence this funding.

I presume the Deputy is raising the matter in the context of the current referendum. In this instance, public bodies are also obliged to act with impartiality and are all subject to the clear guidance from the Referendum Commission that any information disseminated by Government or its agencies or bodies involving the use of public funds must be equal, fair, impartial and neutral. That is a separate obligation which falls on public bodies.

I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of arts and culture to societal well-being. It is an opportunity to prompt debate.


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