Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

3:20 pm

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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60. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will restore the 30% cut in arts funding which has taken place over the past five years, as a necessary measure to protect our culture and local artistic jobs and centres. [43519/13]

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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63. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the sections of the arts that will be affected by the most recent 7% cut in budget 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44524/13]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 63 together.

My Department has policy responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection, development and preservation of Ireland's heritage and culture. It also seeks to promote the Irish language, support the Gaeltacht and assist the sustainable development of island communities. A gross provision of over €238 million is being made available to my Department in 2014. A further €7.5 million is provided separately for the National Gallery of Ireland. In broad terms, the 2014 allocations are as follows: almost €123 million for arts, culture and film, including almost €56 million for the Arts Council and €14 million for the Irish Film Board; almost €45 million for the conservation and protection of Ireland's built and natural heritage; almost 40 million for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands; and over €38 million for north-South co-operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies, Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga.

For 2014 there has been a core reduction of approximately €16.9 million, or 7%, in Exchequer funding to my Department. Therefore, as with every other Minister, difficult choices had to be made with regard to funding for next year. Notwithstanding this, and even with a reduced departmental budget, every week more than €2.3 million will be invested in arts, culture and film next year.

That funding will go to a range of beneficiaries, including the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board, the national cultural institutions, regional museums, art centres, artists and arts and culture organisations. This weekly allocation will help to maintain and support the important role played by the arts in innovation and expression, job creation and economic recovery. In addition, funding for three jobs-rich initiatives, totalling €17 million, is also being made available. This will have a considerable positive impact on the arts and heritages sectors throughout 2014. The €17 million is new and additional funding that comes from the proceeds of the national lottery licence transaction. It includes €6 million for the Limerick city of culture in 2014, €6 million for projects relating to the decade of centenaries and €5 million for the 2014 traditional skills and buildings at risk jobs leverage scheme.

Funding for the arts, culture and film represents a significant contribution not only to sustaining the arts and national cultural institutions, but also to job creation. In line with other Departments, difficult choices needed to be made in this year's budget. As has been made clear, this budget is above all about strengthening our economy, creating jobs and exiting the bailout. I am confident that the allocation of more than €238 million to my Department will play a role in that respect not only by maintaining and supporting the important role the arts play in innovation and expression, but also in the potential for job creation in these sectors and for economic recovery.

The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to continuing to make progress, improving the economy, exiting the bailout and helping to create jobs. My Department and the sectors it represents will make a significant contribution to this work during the course of 2014.

3:30 pm

Photo of Peter MathewsPeter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
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Deputy Clare Daly will ask the first supplementary question, followed by Deputy Wallace. Deputy Kevin Humphreys will also ask a question. The Deputies will have one minute each.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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I honestly believed that the Minister was answering a different question at the start. While it is heartening that he is confident that the money will go a long way, he is probably the only person in that category. He is missing the essential point, namely, that the trajectory of funding for the arts has been spiralling downwards in recent years. This year, it reached a critical point that even the one-off lottery allocation will in no way help. For the providers of the arts, many jobs are being jeopardised and many projects are on a knife's edge.

Last year's cut of 7% on top of the cuts of previous six years was a cut too far. For example, Culture Ireland has seen a 21% cut in its funding. Organisations such as it promote Ireland abroad. They herald and trumpet our great artistic achievements, but they cannot do so if the Government takes money out of their projects. Many projects are in jeopardy. If their budgets are cut, they cannot keep doing the job that they are supposed to do. I wonder how the Minister will square that circle.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is undoubtedly aware that this is a part of the framework. It was publicised last year, so people knew what their reductions would be. In 2006, there was a reduction of 24.3%. In 2009, there was a reduction of 10%. When I got the opportunity to work on the allocation for 2012, there was just a reduction of 2.9%. The Deputy mentioned a figure of 7% for the cut announced last year, but it was actually 4%. Unfortunately, the cut next year will be more than 7%. The National Museum and other national cultural institutions are under pressure to stay open and provide services, so I needed to limit the reduction in their funding. Some €6 million has been provided for the Limerick city of culture. Artists from all over the country will benefit, not just people in Limerick. They will get an opportunity.

I accept that Culture Ireland is important. We send our artists all over the world with a positive message about Ireland. However, its €2.5 million remains a great deal of money and I needed to focus funding on what was happening inside the country as much as on sending people abroad.

3:35 pm

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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The fact that it was a smaller cut under the Minister's budget last year is missing the central point, which is that the Arts Council alone has had a cut of 34% since 2008. Obviously the arts cost money but we get that money back in multiples by investing in it. The Minister has not really dealt with that issue. If these organisations are given money to promote local groups, but that money is being cut, how can they then keep going? Many people, including young independent film makers, are being driven out of this country. They have talents which other countries will pick up. It is short-sighted to reduce funding in this way. This year, we will give €50 million to National Toll Roads for the Westlink toll bridge which has been paid for twice over, yet the arts budget gets butchered. It does not make any sense whatsoever.

Photo of Peter MathewsPeter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
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The Minister should keep his reply as tight as he can because Deputy Kevin Humphreys has a question.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I have been trying to encourage philanthropy in order to make up for the shortfall in Government funding. This is working to some extent. Last year, I had a small philanthropic scheme of €220,000 which yielded up to €800,000. I am trying to encourage more arts organisations to engage with business - like the "Business to Arts" organisation is doing - to make up that gap as much as possible through philanthropic measures. The Arts Council's RAISE scheme has held fundraisers for a number of organisations. Hopefully they will be able to make up for that reduction through such initiatives. I am trying to encourage this as much as possible.

People seem to forget that this country was broke and is still being challenged. Every Department has had to make a sacrifice, including my own. I inherited reduced budgets in the three sectors that form my Department. For example, the built heritage budget was cut from €15 million to €3 million. I inherited a small budget compared to others. I am doing my best to spread it as much as possible.

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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I do not hold the Minister responsible for cuts to the arts and I understand that it is Government policy. However, there is a serious lack of joined-up thinking, while short-term policies are being implemented by this Government. The Government is aware that we are not exploiting the massive tourism potential here. Other countries like Italy and Spain take in much more tourism revenue than Ireland as a percentage of GDP. We have an incredible potential to maximise tourism potential to much greater effect that at present.

Recently conducted independent research shows that the arts industry alone is worth a minimum of €700 million for this country. Approximately 2,500 people are directly employed in the sector. Tourism figures are up this year in Dublin and I can vouch for that in my own businesses. Hitting Culture Ireland now is not the way to improve things next year. It is a retrograde step to cut arts funding and it does not make sense.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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The arts are very much part of our tourism offering. For example, over 1 million tourists visit the National Museum annually. Our cultural institutions are free and we are trying to keep them that way because they are a huge attraction. The number of people coming to Ireland for the cultural encounter is increasing all the time. If The Gathering proved one thing, it was that most of the events were connected with the arts which constitute an important part of our tourism industry.

Culture Ireland supports artists to travel abroad and promote this country in their own way. I try to ensure that funding is kept at home as much as possible because we are under budgetary pressure. At the same time, Culture Ireland, which is part of my Department, will continue funding people to go abroad. We are trying to maximise the benefit from that funding. I have changed Culture Ireland to include the IDA, as well as Tourism Ireland and other State agencies, so that when an artist is going abroad these national agencies can capitalise on the presence of some of our best artists. In that way, they can bring their clients along and do other promotions with them.

This is happening. We must get more for less.

3:40 pm

Photo of Peter MathewsPeter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
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For time efficiency purposes, we will take the supplementary questions from Deputies Kevin Humphreys, Mick Wallace and Sandra McLellan together.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Dublin South East, Labour)
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As already stated, arts groups play an important role in Irish society in terms of them being ambassadors for Ireland at home and abroad. I know from my interaction with arts groups that they have done more with less over the past number of years. Planning and budgetary matters require certainty. Currently, arts groups can only plan from year to year. Will the Minister consider the introduction of multi-annual budgeting for this sector during the remainder of the lifetime of this Government, which would provide certainty and allow those involved to engage in long-term planning in respect of the services they wish to provide in the coming years? Would it be possible to provide this sector with a level of certainty in regard to funding over the coming years?

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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I am sure the Minister will share my view that investing in the arts is a double winner for this State in that any money spent on arts is good for the development of any country. It is also an economic winner. Greater investment in sports would also be a double winner. Not only is sport good mentally for the young people involved but it reaps dividends by helping to reduce our health bills in terms of addressing issues such as obesity and alcohol-related problems, which are costing the State approximately €6 billion.

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
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There has been a reduction of €9.2 million in arts funding, including an 8% reduction this year in culture and film funding on top of a 5% reduction last year. Less funding in arts means less arts in local communities and, more specifically, fewer plays and exhibitions and less support for young people getting involved in the arts. These cuts will result in the arts being only accessible to a few rather being a property of the people.

The Minister referred earlier to philanthropy. Has he given up on trying to secure Bank of Ireland, College Green for the arts?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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As regards multi-annual funding, as somebody who has been involved in a number of arts organisations for the past 30 years I agree with Deputy Humphreys on the issue of certainty around funding. I refer the Deputy to the framework published two years by the Government. The Arts Council is well aware of its budget. The Government was able to give the Arts Council more during the past two years under that framework. It is hoped the reduction for next year can be minimised. While that is not certainty it is positive. The likelihood is that unless there is a return to growth in the country there will be no change in what is already provided for under the framework.

On the point made by Deputy Wallace, we are all agreed that the arts is one of our strongest calling cards. Up to €1 billion has been invested in the arts in this country, some of which it should be acknowledged was provided by previous Governments. For example, physical plant throughout the country has been improved and there are now some high quality theatres around the country, including the recently opened Garage in Monaghan. It is hoped the Tullamore project and proposed Solas cinema in Galway will go ahead. We are still providing funding for the arts. There has also been a huge investment in human resources. There is a really vibrant and exciting young arts community in this country, including in the visual and performing arts. These people are producing content despite funding having been reduced. I encourage them to continue to be positive and to do things.

During the tributes in this House to Seamus Heaney a Deputy attacked the Government on the issue of arts funding, which was a little inappropriate at that time, and asked from where would come the next Seamus Heaney. There was very little funding available to encourage writers when Seamus Heaney was a young man. Creativity rather than funding is required.

On Deputy McLellan's question, engagement with the Bank of Ireland is ongoing.

It is hoped some accommodation can be found in the future, but it is not over by any means. I know that Deputy Ó Fearghaíl got a different response, perhaps from the Bank of Ireland director or whoever, but there are still ongoing discussions and it is hoped something will happen before 2016. Many possibilities are still being considered.