Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Appointments to State Boards
7. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when he intends to fill the current vacancies on the board of the Arts Council; his views on the length of time for which those vacancies have been in existence; and the process for filling the relevant positions. [51467/13]
In reply to a recent parliamentary question, the Minister indicated that there was just one vacancy on the Arts Council board. Will he indicate whether this is still the case and whether other vacancies will arise in the near future?
At the time there was one vacancy, and that has been filled. However, other vacancies are due to arise and I will now outline how it is proposed to deal with them.
At present, there are no vacancies on the Arts Council. Section 11 of the Arts Act 2003 states that the Council shall consist of a chairperson and 12 ordinary members appointed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to serve for a term of five years. Details and biographies of the members, along with the dates on which they were appointed and their respective terms of office, are available on the website of the Arts Council at . The Arts Act 2003 specifies that no fewer than six of the members of the council shall be men and no fewer than six shall be women. The Act also states that council members, "shall, in the opinion of the Minister, have a special interest or knowledge in relation to the arts or matters connected with the functions of the Minister or the Council under this Act."
Last June my Department advertised for expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced persons to fill vacancies that might arise on the Arts Council during the following 12 months. The advertisement specified that, as Minister, I will not be restricted to considering only those who have responded to the invitation. In the near future, a number of positions will become vacant on the Arts Council. Those people who have expressed an interest in becoming members of the council will be considered for those vacancies in conjunction with other suitable people. The vacancies in question will arise during the course of this month.
I thank the Minister for his reply. When I visited the website it came to my attention that a number of vacancies would arise in the coming weeks. I understand one of those vacancies is the position of Ms Pat Moylan, the current chair of the council. Has Ms Moylan expressed an interest in reappointment and, if not, is there a process in train to appoint her successor? It is clear that this particular vacancy will have to be dealt with very quickly. Are the remaining members of the board interested in reapplying for their positions? In the current climate it is vital that there be transparency, and we must ensure there are no conflicts of interest in respect of any new appointees. We do not want a situation to arise in which colleagues on the board could vote in favour of top-up payments for one another.
The chairperson has given the Arts Council almost her full-time attention for the past five years. I met Ms Moylan recently and we had a conversation. Contact will continue until the position is filled. A number of people have expressed an interest in both the chairmanship of the Arts Council and the other vacancies that will arise. We will consider those expressions of interest and make a decision shortly. We will certainly take the issue of conflicts of interest into consideration. Obviously, it facilitates the work of the Arts Council if the people making decisions in respect of huge grants are not directly involved themselves. At the same time, however, it is important to have people on the council who may have practical day-to-day experience of running organisations, etc. It is vital to ensure that a balance is achieved.
I will take what Deputy McLellan has said into consideration. To date, my appointments to the Arts Council have been generally welcomed. The individuals involved have a high level of competence when it comes to the arts. I will certainly continue to appoint people along those lines.
I previously highlighted the fact that appointments by the Department - particularly those to Údarás na Gaeltachta - were not made in an ideal way. However, I also commended the move to publicly advertise for expressions of interest in positions on the Arts Council and a number of other bodies. There are 13 members on the board of the Arts Council. It is clear that there will be a regular turnover in the membership of this extremely important body, which is responsible for spending substantial amounts of money across a wide variety of organisations and bodies. It is essential, therefore, that the board of the council should operate as close as possible to full capacity.
The profile and competency of the current membership of the board of the Arts Council is extremely impressive.
All of its members are arts practitioners with a long history of contributing to the development of the arts. My policy on appointments will be similar. However, in appointing new members of the Arts Council I will be very much aware of the need to strike a balance between experience of the visual and performing arts and governance. As a result, the council will acquire certain expertise which current members may not have. I concur with the Deputy that the allocation of funding to the Arts Council is substantial. In assessing applications for funding, the Arts Council must deal with all applicants fairly, properly and in a balanced manner and ensure all sectors of the arts community are recognised.