Thursday, 29 September 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
16. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if additional funding will be provided to an organisation (details supplied) which recently announced that it cannot afford to continue operating due to a lack of Arts Council funding. [47588/22]
Two weeks ago the Dublin arts festival, Scene + Heard, announced that it will not be returning in 2023 due to a lack of funding. Will the Minister continue to provide some funds in order that this much-needed festival can continue to operate?
The Arts Council is the statutory body charged with supporting and developing the arts under the Arts Act 2003. Under section 24(2) of the Act, the Arts Council is independent in its funding decisions and the Minister is statutorily precluded from intervening. The Arts Council offers a wide range of schemes that provide funding to artists and arts organisations. These include the festival investment scheme which is a competitive scheme that offers funding to support the staging of festivals on a non-recurring basis.
The Deputy may wish to note that under budget 2023, the Minister, Deputy Martin, has maintained the Arts Council allocation of €130 million. This allocation will allow the Arts Council to continue to protect jobs and livelihoods of artists and assist arts organisations through the cost-of-living crisis. With such assistance and the support of the public, the core infrastructure of the arts in Ireland has survived. This ongoing public funding in 2023 allows the Arts Council to continue its support for artists and arts organisations. Budget 2023 and the cost-of-living package deliver a range of supports to the tourism, culture, Gaeltacht, sports and media sectors across Ireland.
The measures announced under the budget on Tuesday resulted from ongoing dialogue and engagement between officials in my Department and the sectors and communities which come under our remit. Budget 2023 is unprecedented, compared to recent years, with increasing uncertainty in the face of rising energy costs, inflation and economic uncertainty. Together we have provided supports to help these important sectors survive through the rapidly-increasing energy costs they face. In the case of Arts Council funding, this budget will not doubt assist the council to address significant costs and challenges for artists, arts workers and arts organisations.
It is important that the arm's-length principal of funding of the arts be maintained. We cannot overstate the importance of the Arts Council's status as an independent agency where funding decisions are taken at arm's length from the political system. This ensures that artists continue to have the freedom to create and express their art, including views and even criticism that we, as politicians, might not necessarily embrace.
I will pay testimony to what exactly this arts festival was about. It mentored countless young aspiring performers, writers and directors for six years and provided them with training, encouragement and a space to demonstrate their work. Three thousand artists benefitted from the Scene + Heard festival over the years and the programme launched many successful careers in the arts but that is set to end.
I appreciate that the decision should be removed from politics, but politics should not separate itself from how we foster a culture of artistic endeavour in this country. Mentorship is essential to that. There is a role for politicians.
In a country where it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living as an artist, this is a massive blow to future generations. I implore the Minister to consider other avenues by which politics and the Government can step in to ensure that artistic mentorship can continue into the future. The Scene + Heard festival was instrumental to that.
I acknowledge the points the Deputy made about the Scene + Heard festival. What Government can do is support funding for the arts. That has happened in an unprecedented way again this year. The Minister, Deputy Martin, has secured €130 million for the Arts Council, €35 million for the basic-income-for-artists pilot scheme which will see 2,000 artists receive a payment of €325 per week for three years; €7 million for capital supports for artists' and climate adaptation, including a new €5 million scheme for local authority and not-for-profit bodies; €15 million to address the energy cost challenges; €6 million for the night-time economy, including €2 million for new capital supports; €2 million extra for Culture Ireland to promote Irish artists overseas and €500,000 to support measures developed in conjunction with the Irish Theatre Institute as part of the speak-up campaign. Specific funding decisions are made with an arm's-length principal. That has been underpinned in the Arts Act 2003 with regard to specific funding decisions.
I acknowledge the importance of the festival the Deputy referenced but it is a decision for the Arts Council.
I accept fully that there has been massive strides made in terms of funding for arts and I also acknowledge that basic funding for arts has gone some way, but none of that will mean anything if we do not have a culture of mentorship. It is extraordinarily difficult for artists to get a start in this country. One of the ways that can be fostered is by artists helping other artists. The Scene + Heard festival did that for six years in Dublin. It will not exist anymore which needs to be lamented in this House. Politicians and Ministers have a role in fostering that culture in this country.
In fairness to the Minister, Deputy Martin, she has been a very strong advocate of fostering that..
We have an innovative scheme to provide a basic income for artists. We have got a huge step change in funding for the Arts Council since the Government came into office. That has been continued and maintained in budget 2023. We have got supports for the night-time economy and cross-Government co-ordination to build more inclusive and diverse spaces for that economy. There has been an extra €2 million for Culture Ireland as well as Creative Ireland, which has seen continued support.
As stated, I acknowledge the importance of the festival the Deputy referred to in his area, but, under the Arts Act, an arm's length principle is maintained. I hope there can be engagement between the applicant and the Arts Council for further consideration on it but it is not something there can be direct intervention on. If there was there would be huge criticism. Arts Council decision-making is a fundamental principle we have had for over 20 years. It is important we maintain that so artists are free to express whatever view they have within the context of Government funding.