Dáil debates

Thursday, 15 February 2007

3:00 pm

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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Question 2: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to support efforts to develop and update Dublin's cultural infrastructure; specifically the extent to which they are supporting new galleries for the Museum of Modern Art, the development of a cultural zone in Parnell Square, the recently announced new performance centre, and any new children's museum; the level and amount of funding he will commit to each of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5756/07]

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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The largest ever Government investment programme for the development of arts and culture was unveiled at the end of January in the National Development Plan 2007-2013: Transforming Ireland. Some €1.13 billion in capital funding has been allocated to the NDP cultural sub-programme, which will see €904 million allocated in respect of areas under the remit of my Department over the period 2007 to 2013. The remaining €226 million is for Irish language strategy that is to be administered by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Government's record in the arts and culture area is one of which we can be justifiably proud and I am delighted to outline our goals for the coming seven years in this regard. In our fast-paced and vibrant economy, it is important to remember that economic indicators alone cannot measure a strong and healthy society. The well-being of our society is dependent also on the vitality of our communities. The arts have a critical role to play in enlivening, invigorating and distinguishing our society, locally, nationally and internationally. Unquestionably, this national development plan places the arts and cultural sector at the very core of Government policy and at the leading edge of its developmental objectives.

The National Development Plan 2007-2013 will also provide major capital infrastructure resources in Dublin for cultural purposes. Under the plan, the headline projects are €288 million for the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall and the Abbey Theatre, €45 million for the extension of the National Library, €45 million for the refurbishment of historic buildings and enhanced collection space at the National Gallery of Ireland, €7 million for the Gaiety Theatre, €45 million for new exhibition space for the Irish Museum of Modern Art, €10 million for the Chester Beatty Library expansion and €20 million for the National Archives of Ireland.

This funding is in addition to the current funding provided on a yearly basis to the National Archives, National Library of Ireland, National Gallery, National Museum of Ireland, National Concert Hall, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Chester Beatty Library. It is also in addition to capital moneys to be provided for routine capital works, acquisitions, exhibitions and digitisation projects at those institutions.

The Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach unveiled the model and architectural design for the Exploration Station, sometimes known as the national children's museum on the 5 February 2007. This facility will be Ireland's first purpose-built interactive science centre.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

It will strive to inspire a lifelong passion for discovery and innovation in children and young adults. It will do this by engaging young minds with a range of interactive exhibits and programmes demonstrating the relevant role of science in our lives. Children are the main focus for this initiative but it will be of interest to people of all ages with a particular focus on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This initiative is in receipt of capital funding from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and I have undertaken to provide up to 39% of its current funding requirements. This commitment is dependent upon me being satisfied that the venture is properly grounded in the commercial reality, that provision is made to ensure the socially disadvantaged have access to the facility, and that a robust business model is prepared. I authorised my Department to provide €150,000 to the establishment of the station in 2006 and have increased this funding to €250,000 in 2007.

My Department has provided financial support to Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane, which is situated in Parnell Square, in response to specific requests for financial support from this gallery. My Department will give due consideration to any future requests for funding that may be received from the gallery. The National Centre for Partnership and Performance, situated in Parnell Square, which was established by the Government in 2001 and placed on a statutory footing in January this year, does not fall within my responsibilities. However, I am sure its location in the square is of benefit to the general area.

Dublin City Council is examining the possibility of establishing a cultural zone in Parnell Square and my Department is in discussions with the council in the context of determining the character, content and positioning of such a zone and its complementarity to the existing and anticipated cultural landscape of the city. The national Access programme, for which €81 million is provided in the NDP, also covers Dublin and I will be announcing the second round allocations under the scheme in March. Meantime, the redevelopment and extension projects at Smock Alley and the Gate Theatre have been initiated and construction should commence later this year.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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The children's museum is of major significance to many schools not only in the Dublin area, but throughout the country, whose pupils come to the city for school tours. When will the project be completed? We have all the other museums, art centres, etc, but I am not aware of any other museums that contribute to developing a child's mind in such a way. What funding does the national development plan commit to the museum? Is it to be a public private partnership? Is the site mentioned the best one for it or would it be better placed in the Parnell Square development that Dublin City Council is to make into a civic and arts centre? After the development of O'Connell Street, this area needs an injection of funding and it has some wonderful buildings. Is the site proposed for it now written in stone?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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The Exploration Station, which is sometimes known as the national children's museum and was unveiled by the Taoiseach, does not come under the ambit of my Department but the aegis of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I have undertaken to provide up to 39% of its current funding requirements. This commitment is dependent upon me being satisfied that the venture is properly grounded in the commercial reality, that provision is made to ensure the socially disadvantaged have access to the facility, and that a robust business model is prepared. I authorised my Department to provide €150,000 to the establishment of the station in 2006 and increased this funding to €250,000 in 2007.

I envisage that the Exploration Station will be completed within the next year or two. However, I do not have a precise timeframe and I will request the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to communicate the precise timeframe — if he has it — to the Deputy. While children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will form the main focus of the initiative, it will be of interest to people of all ages.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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What are the Minister's views on Dublin City Council's proposals for Parnell Square? Has the Minister any plans to work with the council in that area? Has any proposal been put to the Minister on the development of that area, which has had such significance to Dublin and in particular to those who came from rural areas to reside in Dublin?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Dublin City Council is examining the possibility of developing a cultural zone in Parnell Square. My Department is in discussion with the council in the context of determining the character, content and positioning of such a zone and its complementarity to the existing and anticipated cultural landscape of the city.