Thursday, 30 November 2006
Question 6: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which his support for the promotion of arts, sport and tourism is reflected in financial allocation by or from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40846/06]
I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 2, which I answered a short time ago. In that reply, I outlined in considerable detail the 2007 Estimates allocations and priorities of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. I will illustrate the significant financial support the Government has given the arts, sport and tourism sectors. In 2003, which was the first full year of operation of the new Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, the Department's current and capital provisions were €278.781 million and €120.73 million, respectively. Following significant increases in the intervening years, the figures for 2007 are €399.759 million and €298.842 million, respectively, representing increases of 43.4% and 147.5% on the 2003 figures. I will cite some significant examples of the Government's financial support for the sectors under my remit. The total funding given to the Arts Council will increase by 52% in just four years, from €52.5 million in 2004 to €80 million in 2007. The total funding given to the Irish Sports Council in 2000, which was its first full year of operation, was €13.5 million, whereas its total budget for 2007 will be more than €49 million. The tourism marketing fund, which amounted to €18 million in 2000, now stands at €40 million and will increase further to €45 million in 2007.
I propose to draw Deputy Durkan's attention to some examples of the Government's investment in capital projects and programmes. It has provided €191 million towards the redevelopment of the Lansdowne Road stadium. It has offered financial support for the development of local, regional and national sports facilities, including public swimming pools, which have been allocated over €430 million between 2003 and 2007. The Government has decided to proceed with the construction of a national conference centre, through a public private partnership process. The National Concert Hall and the national theatre are being redeveloped. The Government has committed €119 million towards the provision of the sports campus at Abbotstown. Members will agree that these figures, which speak for themselves, demonstrate beyond doubt the Government's immense support for these sectors.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I tabled Question No. 6 to ascertain the full extent of the Minister's commitment to his various areas of responsibility. I was particularly keen to get information about the arts, to which Deputy Deenihan referred in the context of a previous question. I have had difficulty getting such information in the past. I compliment the Minister on the work that has been done in the areas of sport and recreation. Such work was needed in my constituency as a result of the increases in population. Can the Minister indicate how he intends to promote the arts among young people and local communities? In many cases, local community groups, musical societies and drama societies in my constituency and in every other part of the country have no permanent base and have to make applications to the Arts Council for funding. The response they receive is that the resources are not there to meet the requirements. Will the Minister look favourably at developing communities in the satellite towns in the eastern region? Will he give recognition to those communities with a view to specific promotion of the arts? In view of the likely increase of the population in the future, will he specifically identify a programme whereby the development and provision of facilities for the arts can be promoted in a positive way? Can that be done through the Arts Council?
Gross expenditure in arts and culture in 2007 rose from €198.7 million to €216.56 million. There has been an 11% increase in the Arts Council budget to €80 million, which was the amount sought.
The Minister for Education and Science and I have set up a committee to look at the question of the arts in education. This committee is examining how we can influence the school curriculum to promote the arts. I anticipate that this report should be with us by next summer and I hope that it will receive the same level of attention as the report of the traditional arts committee. In that case, funding was immediately committed to the promotion of the traditional arts and there is now a coherent strategy for traditional arts in this country. Through the co-operation that we have already received from the Minister for Education and Science, I hope that we would be in a position to have a far greater involvement in nurturing the arts among young people. The obvious way to do this is through the education process. I look forward to receiving the report of the committee, which was set up under the Arts Act 2003.
We recently announced ACCESS II to refurbish, restore and build new arts centres around the country. Following on from ACCESS I, when more than €45 million was spent on these initiatives, this will represent a further advance in the provision of arts infrastructure.
I thank the Minister for his reply. He is on the right track. Unfortunately, two groups in my constituency are expecting assistance in the areas to which I referred. These groups promote the arts by putting on shows, plays and musicals and they often have to congregate for practice in unsuitable accommodation. The work being done so far by the Minister is fine, but he needs to direct where the money should go, with particular reference to the need to encourage upcoming groups in the areas of new and expanding population.
The Minister is correct on the educational aspect of the arts. Unfortunately, we are not really responding to the accommodation needs of education. However, the arts and education are complementary and it would be very beneficial to the communities concerned if he pursued the line I outlined.
There is no denying that there is a paucity of facilities in many parts of the country and that this gap needs to be addressed, not least in County Kildare. I sincerely hope that we receive applications from County Kildare under ACCESS II which will be worthy of support. There is no doubt that further facilities are required. We made a start under ACCESS I and in addition to that, almost €53 million has been awarded to other capital projects in 2004, 2005 and 2006. We are beginning to provide relatively good facilities in communities, but there is still some way to go.