Thursday, 16 June 2005
My Department has allocated a total of €7.85 million, comprising an original €6.35 million towards programming for the event and a further €1.5 million which I approved specifically for additional new commissions and a number of larger events with mass audience appeal. EU funding of €500,000 has been provided, the event has a sponsorship target of €3.975 million and Cork City Council is to provide €3.175 million. Cork City Council has also underwritten a further €3.175 million of Cork 2005's sponsorship target. This brings the total budget for Cork 2005 to €15.5 million All Government funding to Cork 2005 is channelled through Cork City Council. To date my Department has made payments totalling €6 million to Cork City Council in respect of Cork 2005 expenditure. In addition, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland are actively promoting Cork 2005 through all the avenues available to them.
Has a review been carried out by the Department of the success of the Cork City of Culture? Is it good value for money? If further demands are made of the Department for additional funding for the remainder of the year, will it be forthcoming?
We have been generous in terms of Cork City of Culture. It is proving to be a wonderful success, despite forebodings which were vented in some quarters, not least in Cork. The organising committee has done a superb, professional job and the figures, which do not lie, bear that out. In the first three months of 2005, 300,000 people attended events under Cork City of Culture, an astounding figure. Visits to cultural institutions in Cork were up 30% across the city. The number of passengers coming in through Cork Airport is up by 25% on the same period last year.
Cork City of Culture projects are now moving outdoors for the summer, with theatre and other activities that will ensure the participation of people across the city and beyond. Cork has done Ireland proud and while a review would not be appropriate now, when we look back on the year, we will be able to say that Cork did what it always does — its best — and that is usually good enough.
The Cork City of Culture organisers knew precisely what the funding would be. Far from staying with the original figure, the Government increased its investment. Sponsorship and benefit in kind have exceeded €5.5 million and are heading for €6 million.
It is true that when we make international comparisons with larger cities that have held the title of European City of Culture, Cork's budget is not as high but if we compare the spend per head of population the amount being spent in Cork is above the average. An event like this is not just about money, it is also about participation, community and involvement. The involvement that was anticipated and sought is happening and I am pleased about that. It should be remembered that this is a two-way track. It is not a question of Cork exhibiting its own cultural heritage, it is also about Europe doing likewise in Cork.
The Minister will agree that the greatest drama will take place this summer in Páirc Uí Chaoimh when Kerry will play Cork in the Munster final, if they overcome Limerick. Does the Minister agree a definitive statement should be issued on the future of Cork School of Music? Could the outstanding difficulties be cleared up so it could go ahead as soon as possible?
I have no doubt that the drama in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, a long-running saga in many acts, will give great joy and entertainment to our fellow countymen and women.
Returning to the topic, the organisers of Cork City of Culture have ensured that events being put on in the city are innovative, imaginative and attractive. When the entire year is reviewed, we will be proud of what has happened in Cork.