Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Arts and Culture Sector: Motion
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach. The foregoing motion deals specifically with the arts. The Minister has had something of a baptism of fire in the sector. Let us look back at what most of us would agree is an important sector of our country and our heritage and one in which my party has a proud record. We are concerned at how in recent years, before the Minister took over, funding for the Arts Council was drastically reduced. This Government does not seem to hold the arts and culture sectors of the country in any regard whatsoever.
That Seanad Éireann---- recognising the significant contribution that a vibrant arts and culture sector makes to the Irish nation;
- acknowledging the positive impact on the economy and employment of our wider arts sector, contributing €4.7 billion to the economy and directly and indirectly supporting 79,000 jobs;
- noting that in the period 2005 to 2010 alone more than €1.1 billion was invested in the sector;
- highlighting that these funds facilitated a transformation in our national, regional and community arts and culture infrastructure, performance venues and film and television production capacity;
- recognising the need to protect and promote our cultural heritage as we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising; and
- agreeing that independence and autonomy of the arts sector is crucial, that political interference should be avoided and that the "arm’s length" principle should be reaffirmed;calls on the Government to---- develop a new national strategy for the arts sector to build on the significant advances made in the past 20 years;
- outline detailed plans for the commemoration of the centenary of the 1916 Rising;
- protect our national cultural institutions from further budget cuts in 2015; and
- guarantee the independence of our national cultural institutions and their boards from political interference.
Let us consider the record of previous Governments: the establishment of Aosdána, tax exemptions for creative writers and artists, removing VAT from books, establishing the now famous Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Concert Hall, providing funding for the Millennium Wing of the National Gallery, converting Collins Barracks for use by the National Museum of Ireland, providing funding for the Wexford Opera House, establishing Temple Bar as a cultural quarter, establishing Culture Ireland to promote Irish culture abroad, enacting tax relief for filming and establishing arts and cultural performance centres throughout the country.
I wish the Minister well in her job but I believe the Government really needs to reaffirm itself in this area because of the damage done prior to the Minister's taking over. Let us set aside the political damage that has been done to Fine Gael, the Taoiseach and the Minister. Damage has been done to our arts and cultural sector, and those involved believe their independence has been undermined in many ways by the actions of the Government or those of an unnamed and unknown Fine Gael party official. That is simply one aspect of the matter, to which I will return.
I implore the Minister, in the run-up to the budget next week, to consider reversing some of the savage cuts that have been brought about in this sector. Do we want to be a society or do we want to be an economy? All of us, regardless of what side of the House we are on, value the importance of our national heritage, culture and arts. Since 2011 we have seen the ongoing dumbing down of this sector by the Fine Gael and Labour Party Government. In particular, what has occurred during recent weeks with the John McNulty affair has further degraded and debased the arts and culture sectors, let alone this House and the Oireachtas.
First and foremost I would like the Minister to get back to doing her job, and I imagine she shares my view. I have a large degree of sympathy for the situation that the Minister was put in. We all know about the coincidences to which the Taoiseach has referred in respect of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Let us consider the reportage on the matter from yesterday evening. One disappointing aspect from the perspective of those in the arts and culture sector is that they maintain that what happened in recent weeks is simply an example of how the Government has treated the sector. What the Minister has been endeavouring to do in recent weeks is to treat this sector as if belonged to her, or as if Fine Gael owned the sector and could play with these boards as they wished.
Here is one fact: the board of IMMA was increased from nine to 11. Who decided that? The Minister decided that. She appointed two Fine Gael members to the board of IMMA, breaching that party's cap and bringing the membership from nine to 11. That is what the Minister has done, and that is a fact. Senator O'Donnell may dispute it if she wishes.
May I be of assistance with regard to facts? Facts can exist independently of the ignorance of a particular speaker about the facts. The population of China is X million. That is a fact, but I do not know what it is.
This may be uncomfortable for Fine Gael, but the independence of the sector is important regardless of the stroke that Fine Gael tried to pull.
I am entitled as a citizen and as an Oireachtas Member to know what happened. Members of Fine Gael are not entitled to assert that the issue of who told the Minister to appoint Mr. McNulty to the board of IMMA is a party matter. The Taoiseach says the Minister did it and that he was not aware Mr. McNulty was going to be appointed. Apparently, the Minister was aware that he was one of 29 people whom the Minister's party was interviewing to put on the list. The situation has turned into a total and utter farce. The most disappointing thing is that the Minister has used this sector for party political purposes. As a Fianna Fáil Member I will take criticism all day long - and some of it valid - but I outlined in brief earlier some of the achievements of previous Fianna Fáil Governments in the arts and cultural sector. I am entitled to know - and I want an answer today - whether the Taoiseach told the Minister to appoint John McNulty and Sheila O'Regan to the board of IMMA. Did the Minister know that John McNulty was going to be a by-election candidate? If not the Taoiseach, who in Fine Gael headquarters told the Minister that she should appoint him? The Minister said yesterday that he was eminently qualified to serve on the board of IMMA. I disagree with her completely. No one believes the Minister or the Taoiseach on this. If the Minister wishes to draw a line under this controversy, the Minister and the Taoiseach should have fronted up and said what happened. The Taoiseach has apologised, but for what we do not know. Today provides an opportunity to correct the record and stop misleading the House by omission, as the Taoiseach has done. I hope the Minister deals with those issues. This is also an opportunity for the Minister to outline what her vision as Minister is for the sector. The Minister cannot move on as a Minister in this area until she addresses what has happened over the last few weeks and answers those questions honestly. I have a lot of personal regard for the Minister, but she and her authority as Minister have been totally and utterly undermined by what has happened. Her party tried to pull one of the greatest political strokes ever.
All of us here deserve an answer with regard to what happened. Listen to the commentary over the last couple of weeks from people in this sector. See how they feel. Forget about Mr. McNulty for a minute and the Fine Gael stroke to get him into this House, which may happen on Friday. I do not care whether he is in the House or not at this stage.
Look at what has happened in this sector since 2011. I am asking the Minister - because she has not been able to do it up to now - to tell us what she is going to do in this area. I do not think the Minister can move on from this in any way, shape or form until she is honest with people. She has not been honest with people. The Taoiseach has not been honest with people.
It is not acceptable for the Minister, the Taoiseach or the Government to say this has nothing to do with the Irish people and that it is an internal Fine Gael matter. It is not. Her party is funded to the tune of €4.2 million every year by the taxpayer. If the paid official in Mount Street in Fine Gael told the Minister to appoint the two individuals to the board and, more importantly, to make sure-----
I welcome the Minister to the House. I am proud to serve with her on the all-party consultation group on the decade of commemorations. Like many others inside and outside this House, I am concerned about the lack of focus on the celebrations for 2016. There has been a lack of focus, in particular, on the descendants of Cumann na mBan, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens' Army, who number in the region of 150,000. They are extremely concerned that there is no clear vision when they ask the Government what is happening with the celebrations of 1916. Even the terminology of the group is in doubt. Is it a celebration? Is it a commemoration?
To my mind, what we are celebrating in 1916 is the words of the Proclamation. We are celebrating the vision of equal rights, equal opportunities and civil and religious liberties. As we have seen from the celebrations so far, that equality eludes us still. At the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Irish Volunteers at the Garden of Remembrance, the President attended, the Irish Army showed up, the Ministers and the Taoiseach were there. However, only 426 descendants were invited because they were all who were included on the current database, despite the existence of more than 150,000 living direct descendants. Then there is the 100th anniversary of Cumann na mBan. Was it equal? It was not. Was the President there to give a speech? Was it televised on RTE? Did the Army show up, as it did for the Irish Volunteers? Did Cumann na mBan give any less in 1916, in 1914, in the decade of independence? Its role was critical. Yet, a hundred years on, equality eludes us still.
It is ironic that we see for the first time a bridge over the Liffey named after a woman. She is rightly a member of Cumann na mBan and an activist in the trade union movement. I am sure my Labour Party colleagues are delighted to see this. However, I am sure if my Labour Party colleagues - many of whom have fought for an equality that eludes us still - think of their own counties and think of the public parks, buildings and roads named after women, aside perhaps from Markievicz Park in Sligo, they would be hard-pressed to name them. Over 50% of the population are women, but women do not get proper recognition.
What we are celebrating is what we were trying to achieve as outlined in the Proclamation at that time. In the decade of commemorations - this is my concern - how will the committee that is tasked with organising the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rising and the Proclamation make the families central to this celebration? How can the Minister make them central and allay their concerns? I know the descendants are meeting on Sunday to organise themselves to ensure their voice is heard. I am sure the Minister will allow their voice to be heard. We need a clear vision. We have some colleagues in this House who have described the leaders and the people who signed that Proclamation as traitors-----
-----tragically, about him.
The issue that is also of concern to us is the nomination of Mr. McNulty in the upcoming election for this House. This is not befitting the House. The Minister was not entirely informed of the reasons people were being appointed to IMMA. I accept that. On 20 June, the Taoiseach visited Sligo for the opening of Lissadell House. During that visit, I understand Mr. McNulty met him with a delegation and the issue of the Seanad by-election was discussed. If the Minster does not know the answer, she might find it out.
Perhaps the Minister would confirm whether such a meeting took place, if the issue of the by-election was discussed and if Mr. McNulty was assured, despite the many tortuous interviews that were held and the many individuals who were lobbying for the job, of the Seanad post. Did the Taoiseach promise Mr. McNulty the Seanad seat at the meeting in Sligo on 20 June? If the Minister does not have that information to hand at the moment, perhaps she will be able to find out and revert to the House later because it would be of grave concern to all of us if that meeting took place.
I think Senator O'Brien is trying to pull a stroke here. I had intended to speak to the motion before us but seeing as Senator Daly referred to the number of appointees, I would like to put on record that during Fianna Fáil's 14 years in government, it appointed more than 200 people to the boards of cultural institutions without any advertising or use of the Public Appointments Service.
To return to the motion, we have a lot to be thankful to our forefathers for, from the Bronze Age right up to today, as Senator O'Brien alluded to earlier. Ireland is renowned for its arts and culture all over the world. Our bards, seanchaí, ceol agus craic are famous. Our arts, culture and heritage define us as a people and shape our lives. When one goes abroad one sees how highly respected and regarded Ireland's arts and culture really are. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Arts Council and our education system for our achievements. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W.B. and Jack Yeats ---
--- Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, U2, Daniel Day Lewis, Riverdance, the Chieftains, the Blarney stone, the Cliffs of Moher are all world famous. Our sports people are also artists in their own way. When one sees Rory McIlroy striking a golf ball on the international stage one must admit that is an art too. Irish culture and art is respected all over the world.
I lived in the United States for more than 20 years and studied at Villanova University in Philadelphia, where Irish history, culture and arts were embedded in the curriculum. The late Seamus Heaney, for example, lectured in Villanova University on numerous occasions and Senator Mac Conghail is currently collaborating with that same university. While I was in the United States I worked with Bord Fáilte, along with Senator Norris, promoting Irish arts, culture and heritage and I fully appreciate how important they are for tourism here. The Irish diaspora in the United States promote Irish festivals which have attracted millions of people over many years. They are tremendously proud and fond of Ireland and all that is Irish. We could not buy such support.
In these days of economic difficulty, however, we cannot take our eye off the ball. We must continue to invest and explore new opportunities for Irish arts and culture. The core policy goal of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is to enhance access and to recognise the social and economic role of the arts, culture and film sectors in Ireland by promoting and encouraging artistic expression, cultural awareness and participation through an appropriate policy, legislative and resource framework and to provide capital infrastructure for the national cultural institutions. Since 2011, €580 million has been invested in the arts and cultural institutions and in the Irish Film Board. A portion of this funding is distributed by the Arts Council which is doing amazing work all over the country. Last year alone, the council supported approximately 120 small arts festivals in towns and villages all over Ireland where more than 7,900 artists were employed, not to mention technicians and crew members. These arts festivals contribute enormously to local communities, boosting business for hotels, bars and restaurants as well as transport providers. The Galway Arts Festival, for example, contributed €21 million to the local economy last year.
The Government recognises the importance of having a vibrant arts and cultural sector. The contribution of the artistic, cultural and creative industries to our society and our economy cannot be underestimated. They are a major sector of our economy, in terms of their contribution to GNP and employment generation. Culture-related tourism is big business which should not be underestimated. Indeed, it is a key element of our overall tourist product. The arts play an important role in our communities and reach people from all walks of life. They are an important contributor to social inclusion. Participation in the arts by children improves their self confidence, interpersonal communication skills and self esteem.
In the programme for Government agreed in March 2011, Fine Gael committed to the development of Ireland's first national cultural policy. This year the Government approved plans to begin drafting that policy, entitled Culture 2025, which will set out our high-level aims and policies in the cultural arena up to 2025. It will be the first comprehensive cultural policy to emerge from Government in several decades.
The Arts Council also undertook a major review of its operations this year to address how it plans, partners, promotes and provides for the arts. The review is rooted in realism, is harnessing the views of the arts sector, partners and stakeholders and is informed by comparative experience at home and abroad. The council is confident that this review will yield long-term benefits for the arts.
As part of the Government's reform plan, it is intended to reduce the size of a number of boards under the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on a permanent basis. Legislation is needed to give statutory effect to this change and it expected that such legislation will be published late in 2015. The heads of the Bill are currently being considered by the relevant Oireachtas committee.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that on a global scale the arts, culture and creative sectors are expected to become a significantly greater part of the international economy in the future. Ireland must make its presence felt if it is to become a competitive leader in this area in the future. More important, from a social perspective, we must encourage, educate and develop the next generation of artists to follow in the footsteps of ---
I welcome the Minister to the House for this debate. I wish to speak about why the arts matter to me. I had the privilege to be trained in the arts and education, as well as the privilege of being educated in the arts and performance and the arts in education. I know, through my training and education that the arts are our national legacy, national language and national identity. I have worked in the arts all my life. I have performed, written about, built, created and developed theatre, visual arts spaces, festivals, writer-in-residence programmes, concert series, children's arts festivals and community arts programmes. I have worked with writers, poets, performers and musicians; worked at the Helix at DCU and on the board of the National Concert Hall; and lectured extensively on the arts and culture in Ireland, Europe and the USA. My involvement in the arts is also one of the reasons, if the not the main reason, that I am a member of Seanad Éireann. No Senator, politician or Minister has a monopoly on the arts and neither do I.
The Minister has said that the arts are for everyone and she is entirely correct. More than that, the arts are about everyone. It is the right of all citizens to have exposure to the arts, to be educated through the arts, to be involved in the arts and to live better because of the arts. That is all I have learned in my 35 years working in the area. They are of the greatest value to society and to ourselves; they are immeasurable, unmatched and unparalleled. I am speaking today because of my knowledge, my training and, hopefully, through a moment of expertise and experience. Thousands of books have been written about the value of the arts. Hundreds and thousands of contributions political to the human self and society and the value they give, and there are thousands of political speeches on the topic. I do not intend to make another.
The Minister has a unique opportunity to propel the arts to the metaphysical level that technology is propelled onto. She has a unique opportunity to make the arts as important as trade, import, export - of which they have been great examples - to make them as important as health, education, and justice. Any Deputy or Senator in these Houses knows that the very thing they rely on when they are travelling abroad is the arts. The Minister has the opportunity, possibly the best ever, to articulate the unending importance of the arts. She has the greatest opportunity now to argue the case for points for music and visual arts on the leaving certificate curriculum alongside maths. She has a massive opportunity to pave a road for the arts to become an independent subject on our post-primary curriculum. However, the Minister's greatest opportunity now, because of the situation in which we find ourselves, is to argue loudly, articulately and convincingly for more capital funding for the arts and for the arts to be, justifiably, as well resourced financially as every other area around the Cabinet table.
If the Minister really believes in the power of the artistic disciplines in all our lives, she can make the greatest case for the arts to be equal when it comes to finance.
I cannot end without making a reference to Mr. McNulty and the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Any political interference that undermines the independence of the boards of our cultural institutions, or any board, is unacceptable and should never happen. However, I feel that the thrust of this motion, the thrust of the amendments to the Order of Business, the thrust of the recent Adjournment debate, just might be operating in the realm of the dark arts. A very good example of the dark arts is Jacobean tragedy, 16th century tragedy by Webster and Middleton, among others, which came after Shakespeare.
Their plays always concerned a very good person, who was new to a position, an eager, enthusiastic, talented, aware and energetic person, who was brought down by a question of morality. In the 16th century this was usually in the guise of a cardinal or a pope, but of course nothing has changed. This great morality hid behind arrases, large stage curtains, with a big sword and picked off the young, energetic, new, alive, able person, bit by bit. There are many moralists like that around the House and, rightly so, they have argued about the appointment of Mr. McNulty. However, they have tried to do what Yeats said was impossible, "to separate the dancer from the dance". They say "I am arguing for the arts, I am not making it personal." That is amateur, lacking in real truth, and so full of false modesty that it would find a better home in the town hall in Tulsk; no harm to Tulsk.
I wish the Minister well in her new portfolio. It is new for her and she should be allowed to begin it. The way to give it the greatest curtain call ever is to demand that the arts get their rightful funding, that they get their deserved financing, that they get major new capital funding to acknowledge, and this must be acknowledged, a politically realigned belief in their power. The message to the Minister is not just to leave arts funding uncut in this budget, but to renew and increase it, demonstrating a new, realigned belief in the Minister's power and the power of the arts. That is her brief, that is my gift to her and that is her real way forward for the entire arts community. I know she can get it and I know that she can do it.
We will ignore the darker arts that might be at play. Indeed the idea that Fianna Fáil would stand up and trumpet its role in what it has created is not in the spirit of the arts at all, given that, as the previous speaker has said eloquently, the arts belong to all of us. They do not belong to any particular party and what it might have achieved or might not have achieved.
We are here today to discuss with the Minister the way in which her portfolio, particularly as she is a new Minister, may grow in the year or years ahead and to see how we always need investment in the arts. The Minister knows that very well. She knows that while we have around us in this country a remarkable number of extraordinary artists across all the fields, they need support. As we approach this budget, we all hope that there will be not just a reversal but perhaps an increase in the monies committed to the arts because of the very important role they play. They are part of our lives to the deepest core. When people talk about poetry nourishing the soul, I believe that is actually true. While putting bread on the table is always important, the rose has always had its role and this should continue. At every level, social, local, national, or international, the arts, and everything to do with them, are everywhere with us, wherever we go.
When thinking of Ireland, particularly abroad, people think of two things - the beauty of Ireland, and particularly our wonderful writers, but also our wonderful artists. It is difficult to imagine that we would not be able to celebrate this ourselves at the highest level possible, and to always have it central to our needs. "It's the economy, stupid" gets a great run on every level at all times, but for me this is who we are and what we stand for in the world. We have punched above our weight for such a long time. We must recognise that much more clearly at home.
I am lucky to be standing here as the chair of the Yeats 2015 national steering group and it would be a shame if I did not mention it at this point. As it is officially part of the decade of commemoration, it allows for a whole year to be exclusively about the role played by culture in our lives, our extraordinary cultural heritage and our contemporary cultural wealth, and how we can marry them. It is not a commemorative event. There will be some commemorative aspects to it - it is 150 years since the birth of William Butler Yeats - but it will also be a celebration of what he did, of the inspiration that he gave and continues to give. Indeed, my colleague, Senator Eamonn Coghlan, mentioned any number of artists and singers and all kinds of people, many of whom were inspired by Yeats. We will be celebrating Yeats across the country, throughout the year and across the world, because he had, long before social media and long before jet planes, a great capacity to understand that it is the link that binds the world together. While we may disagree about all manner of things, we find harmony when we sing, when we read poetry and when we write, and in those things we are at one as human beings. That is a very important and profound message that we can take away.
Where we might disagree about all manner of things, we find harmony when we sing, read poetry or write. In those things, we are at one as human beings. This is an important and profound message.
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being with the ambassador, Dan Mulhall, in London when we launched Yeats 2015 to a very appreciative audience who were dying to take part and to find great ways to celebrate Yeats and, I might add, all that is part of contemporary Irish culture. I look forward to the launch of Yeats 2015 with the Minister in Dublin, hopefully next month. We have been working hard for a long time to get to this stage. However, it is important that it be about more than Yeats because we should also celebrate our great contemporary cultural wealth. I know the Minister will be working hard to assist us to build and grow in this area, particularly as we come out of difficult times.
Seamus Heaney said that William Butler Yeats had the gift for beating the scrap metal of day-to-day life into a ringing bell. Perhaps there has been a lot of scrap metal recently but I am sure the Minister will be able to produce more than a ringing bell.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I did not intend to speak on this motion but it is clearly a Trojan horse. It is an attempt by Fianna Fáil to raise questions on the McNulty election to the Seanad. For that reason, I decided to speak on it. I understand that a number of distinguished visual and other artists are in the Gallery, and I wonder what they think of the fact that once again we are playing politics with the arts for partisan advantage. I regret that.
The most significant thing about the election has not been mentioned, namely, that we are having an election in the most rotten borough in Europe. There are 225 votes for a seat in a national Parliament. What kind of democracy is that? The Taoiseach stands over this while he simultaneously dilutes the only democratic element, the university seats, by expanding them to 850,000 voters from the existing 65,100 and 100,000, respectively. That is the scandal. This motion is a Trojan horse because it is about politics rather than the arts.
The arts are the soul of a country and one cannot sell them out. There is a touch of Paudeen fiddling in the till about this debate. I believe that when all this fuss settles down, Fianna Fáil is just as cynical as everybody else on this. I heard its Members speak about voting for McNulty just to embarrass the Government. How much of a stroke is that? I heard Senator Mark Daly say that he would not vote for Mr. Craughwell because he was in the British army. He was also in the English army. I am not in favour of armies at all. When it comes to 1916 and the Proclamation of Independence, I am one of the people who has actually read the bloody thing.
There are fine elements in it but I wonder what the Belgian refugees thought about the reference to our gallant allies in Europe, also known as the Kaiser who was trampling on little Catholic Belgium. History is a much more complex project than those who simplistically use it for political purposes appear to realise.
The arts are significant for the welfare of the people. I honour and salute institutions like the Project Theatre in Temple Bar, which brought in unknown people, including people from the flats, gay people and women, who had never been satisfactorily projected on the stage. They brought in new audiences and new subjects. I salute the Abbey Theatre and Senator Mac Conghail. If he did nothing else, I am grateful to him for shutting that awful little shoebox drawer of a balcony in the Abbey Theatre and replacing it with a fully raked auditorium. He took a space that was a disaster and managed to make it amenable for artistic productions.
We also have Joyce. I know we are not supposed to name people but I see Mr. Niall Ó Donnchú in the Gallery. He is one of the most constructive people in the arts with whom I have dealt. I dealt with 35 North Great Georges Street, which the city authorities proposed to demolish despite its magnificent ceilings and its pivotal position on the street. We managed to rescue that building and to celebrate James Joyce.
Some 30 years ago I travelled to New York with Senator Eamonn Coghlan, who was a very fine representative of Bord Fáilte. People in America told us that we were lucky to have people like Joyce. This is an insignificant little island off the coast of Europe but our artists put it on the map. It is incredible that a small, contained space like this could produce people like Swift, Berkeley, Joyce and Shaw. The list is endless. For a long time, we were pretty pathetic in terms of the visual arts but that was because of our social history. There was no money to invest for the majority of people in the plastic arts. We have a great 18th century heritage, however. We are debating in a magnificent Chamber. More than 30 years ago I identified the ceiling of the Chamber as the work of Michael Stapleton. People used to come in here and say:
Oh, the beautiful work. They had talent in them days; they could do wonderful things but they couldn't do it nowadays.Oh yes, they could. The entire central section and the apse were replaced in the last 30 years by young Irish crafts people. Let nobody say that we cannot do it. In terms of visual arts, we were pretty disastrous except for Georgian architecture, some academic painters and some painters in the 19th century. There has been a flowering, however, by people like Michael and Patrick Scott and Louis le Brocquoy. There is a tremendous resurgence and vibrancy in the use of colour, and this has been internationally recognised.
All around us, Ireland is identified by our artists more than by our soldiers or politicians. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments on commemorating 1916. I yawn every time I hear about bloody 1916. I hope to Lord God almighty that it is not a repetition of 1966, most of which I spent under the bed because I was not a heterosexual Catholic republican or white - I was white, however, or pink. It was dreary and awful, and I hope they do not repeat it.
I welcome the opportunity to address the House on Fianna Fáil's Private Members' motion. Yesterday evening I addressed the House on the issue of the board appointments I have made since I became Minister. I do not want to go over the same ground this evening. I appointed John McNulty and Sheila O'Reagan based on merit and I stand over my statement of yesterday evening. Tonight I was invited before the House to discuss arts and cultural policy, and I am pleased to do so. It is important that we move forward. New plans announced by the Government last week will ensure that all State boards appointments are made through the public appointments process. I have already instructed the management team in my Department to immediately set about implementing the new system for board appointments. It is a system to which I intend to strictly adhere. I regret the controversy surrounding my first two board appointments. I have learned valuable lessons from that experience. I see this motion as a valuable opportunity to set out my priorities as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The arts, culture and creative sectors have made a huge contribution to our society since the formation of the State. Access to the arts, culture, and Ireland's rich heritage is vital to preserving our national identity and promoting Ireland's image abroad. Promoting and valuing cultural and creative resources are crucial parts of positioning Ireland for the future and, while the arts, creative industries and cultural tourism make a major contribution to our economy, the arts is about much more than that. I feel passionately about the individual importance of the arts and how self-expression through the arts can create a dialogue which allows us to understand the world in a different way.
Learning from the past and looking towards the future, the arts, whether we know it, touch every aspect of our lives and, if allowed, can make a hugely positive impact on us as individuals and a society. The national cultural institutions - museums, libraries, galleries, archives, theatres and concert halls - are stakeholders in this process, as are the Arts Council, artists and the public. On foot of their collections, staffs and contributions to knowledge, these institutions are essential building blocks of the cultural identity and creativity of Ireland. My Department's statement of strategy on culture and the arts is to promote and develop Ireland's world-class artistic and creative strengths at home and abroad, maximising their societal and reputational value to the country. Developing a cultural policy is essential to implement these aims.
Last June an agreement was reached to draft a national cultural policy, Culture 2025, which will set out the high level aims and policies in the area of culture for the period up to 2025. This is the first time in the history of the State that any Government has undertaken such an endeavour. Culture 2025 will focus on a range of issues, including what culture means to us in the 21st century; what can be done to embed culture at the heart of decision making and discourse in the public and private sectors; policies for growth and expansion; international representation and collaboration; and the delivery of cultural services in the digital age. I reassure the House that I am fully committed to the delivery of the country's first ever national cultural policy and of the opinion that culture should be at the centre of Government policy. My Department is finalising a draft discussion paper. I will be initiating a wide-ranging consultation process to ensure all stakeholders and members of the public can make their views known. I attended a Culture Summit in Edinburgh last August, when an eminent speaker said, "It's not the economy stupid, it's the culture genius."
I take the opportunity to mention the arts in education charter, to which Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell referred and which is extremely important and an initiative I am very eager to progress. Making the arts more accessible will be a cornerstone of my ministry. Immersing school students in the arts through a targeted strategy will benefit future generations and give young people a greater understanding and appreciation of the arts as they progress to adulthood. I have met my colleague, the Minister for Education, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, on a number of occasions to discuss this initiative in detail. We are both very keen to progress implementation of the charter without delay. The arts are for everyone and I am very aware of the great work done by arts officers in local authorities throughout the country. I want to work closely with them in bringing the arts to communities.
In response to Senator Mark Daly, on the first opportunity which arose after I became Minister I was delighted to attend an excellent and worthwhile event in Ballina to commemorate the women of Cumann na mBan. The 1916 commemorations are one of my major priorities. I have consistently stated I want the commemorations to be inclusive, respectful and appropriate. I have had the honour of attending a number of First World War commemorative events since my appointment and only last week I visited Richmond Barracks, which is receiving €3.5 million in funding from the Department under the €22 million capital projects plan announced earlier this year. The plan also includes a major project at the GPO where an interpretive centre will be opened in time for Easter 2016, a new visitor centre at Kilmainham Gaol, the refurbishment of the military archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks and several other projects. I received an update from my Department today on the draft plan for the commemorative programme for 2016. My intention is to bring the plan before the all-party group on commemorations before putting it out for public consultation. My Department is also liaising with the Department of the Taoiseach on the draft programme which I want to be in a position to publish in the weeks following the budget. I feel very strongly that the arts must play a central role in the commemorations. They have a way of reaching out and speaking to people, giving them a sense of pride and making them feel both connected to the past and enthused about the future. I also want to bring local communities on board for the commemorations. It is important that people have a sense of ownership of the commemorations and getting local communities involved is the best way to do this.
The Irish film and television industry is going through a positive period of growth and international acclaim. Not only are some of the biggest television series in the world being made here, it was a real pleasure for me to visit the set of one of the biggest film franchises in the world when the crew from "Star Wars Episode VII" came to Skellig Michael for a few days in the summer. It was fantastic to be able to witness, at first hand, the buzz a major production brought and, of course, the positive spin-off for the local community in terms of job creation and economic activity. The welcome and co-operation the film crew received from the community in Portmagee are what Ireland is all about and what make us special. I want Ireland to become a first choice destination for film makers. The audio visual sector has a turnover of approximately €500 million per year and supports 6,000 jobs. The increase in the number of independent television productions is driving this growth and I remain very committed to supporting the industry through direct funding supports and financial incentives such as the enhanced section 481.
Every Senator is aware of the dramatic and near catastrophic reductions in public spending as a result of the financial collapse which will forever be the legacy of the previous Fianna Fáil Government. Like every State body, the national cultural institutions have been obliged to endure significant reductions in financial allocations in the past few years. Notwithstanding financial and staffing restraints, all of the institutions, together with regional museums, galleries and cultural centres, have worked tirelessly to minimise the impact of the cuts in funding and maintain visitor numbers and the visitor experience to the greatest extent possible. Many, if not all, of the institutions have carried out critical staffing and operational reviews in order to better inform how they might achieve optimal performance within current financial and staffing constraints. It is testament to this collective effort and strong resolve to succeed that in 2013 there were over 3.6 million visitors to the cultural institutions directly supported by my Department, an increase of some 4% on the previous year's figures.
Despite the cutbacks imposed in recent years, I am pleased to say there are a number of major capital projects under way at the cultural institutions. The major work being undertaken at the National Gallery of Ireland provides for an overall refurbishment of the historic Dargan and Milltown wings at a cost of some €32 million. This project has created almost 300 construction jobs and I recently had an opportunity to view some of the work. This two year project is scheduled to be completed by 2016 and will bring the National Gallery of Ireland back up to international standards and allow it to again present world-class exhibits in a world-class setting. It is important to remember that only three years ago the gallery was facing the prospect of having to close these wings. A major €4 million refurbishment was recently completed at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham premises of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, IMMA. This project has brought the premises up to international standards and when I visited in August, I was very impressed by the refurbished galleries.
Funding has been allocated for building development works at the National Archives headquarterson Bishop Street, which will address the longstanding problems associated with the storage conditions in the National Archives. It is anticipated that construction will begin in early 2015. I visited the premises and was amazed to see the tremendous collection we have and the excellent relationship that the National Archives enjoy with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Similarly funding has been approved for a significant renovation project at the National Concert Hall as part of the decade of centenaries celebrations. This project involves the renovation of the Kevin Barry room. Again this work is long overdue and will serve to improve substantially the facilities at this much loved venue. My Department and I have been engaged in intensive budget negotiations for the last number of weeks, and while I cannot of course go into detail at this point, it is certainly my intention to protect our cultural institutions and the arts from any further budgetary cuts, as far as possible.
I would like now to address the issue of the reform process being undertaken at the national cultural institutions. I would immediately like to dispel the notion that there is any intention to undermine the independence of our national cultural institutions. In fact the opposite is the case.
The intention is to copperfasten the legal position of each of the cultural institutions to ensure that there is absolute clarity and certainty as to their roles and responsibilities. The reform of the cultural institutions was first mooted by Fianna Fáil as far back as 2008 when little or no progress was made in relation to this issue. Indeed, it was that Government which proposed wholesale amalgamations and mergers of these venerable institutions. Those amalgamation proposals were reviewed by the Fine Gael-Labour Government and I am pleased to say they were subsequently scrapped. My Department carried out an in-depth examination of the position in each of the cultural institutions and following this review the then Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan brought proposals to Government which were accepted in relation to the institutions which I have already mentioned. This includes creating a legislative basis for three cultural institutions, the National Concert Hall, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Art Gallery and updating the legislation in relation to the National Gallery of Ireland, which dates back to Victorian times. The proposal also provides for a range of operational reform measures, including shared services, governance reform, reduced board sizes and enhanced processes for board appointments.
I am pleased to report that significant progress has already been made on an administrative basis in relation to a number of reform measures. For example, the three main art galleries in the country, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Art gallery are already sharing support services and improving co-operation in a number of different areas. Shared HR services are in operation and there is good progress towards shared financial support services.
Draft heads of a Bill have been produced, approved by Government and submitted to the relevant Oireachtas committee for scrutiny. It is important to re-emphasise that artistic policy at the national cultural institutions has never been nor ever will be the remit of the Minister and this is guaranteed in all of the draft legislation currently being prepared. I come to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with no baggage, and I bring an open door policy. In my opinion, nobody has a monopoly on good ideas and I am open to consultation and listening, because at the end of the day, what I want is the best workable solution possible, so that our national institutions can thrive and flourish, while at the same time operate within the principles of probity, fitness and good corporate governance. My priority as Minister is to advance the policy areas I have outlined this evening: the commemorations, the cultural strategy, progressing the arts in education charter and arts in the community.
When this Government took office in 2011 we inherited a catastrophic financial position. Unfortunately it has not been possible to save the arts and culture sectors from what by any standards have been substantial reductions in funding. Since 2011 over €580 million has been invested in the arts, culture and film sector. This Government is committed to the arts. I will make every effort to secure as much funding as is possible for both the national cultural institutions and the overall arts and culture sector. That will not be easy, but I will be fighting tooth and nail and I want to see the arts contribute to and benefit from our economic recovery.
In conclusion, I want to say it is an absolute privilege and an honour for me to serve as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and to work hand in hand with such a dynamic and creative sector. The arts are for everyone - for every human being who ever wanted to lift their voice to sing, who felt the need to write a
poem, who took a pencil in their hand to create a thing of beauty. The arts are not about just passive enjoyment. They are about active participation and dialogue. The arts are how we explain our world to ourselves in song and story. They are the end product of when we dream dreams and see visions. But that is only the beginning of what they are. They are connectors. They are enablers. States that prioritise the arts, from when their citizens are toddlers — those states do well, not
just in the arts, but in industry, technology and innovation. So here is the bottom line, as I see it. It is my job to help make everybody own the arts, enjoy the arts, gain from the arts. That is a big, complicated task, but I am up for it.
Táim chun labhairt as Gaeilge anocht mar measaim go bhfuil an-tábhacht ag baint le cúrsaí Gaeilge agus litríocht agus filíocht na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na n-ealaíon sa tír seo. Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Seanad. Tá a lán ceisteanna curtha agam uirthi le laethanta beaga anuas, ach nílim chun na ceisteanna sin a athchur anocht.
Measaim go bhfuil tábhacht faoi leith ag baint leis na healaíona agus leis an díospóireacht seo maidir leo. Cuireadh in iúl dom aréir go raibh ealaíontóirí, aisteoirí agus filí ag breathnú ar an díospóireacht anseo agus tá a fhios agam go bhfuil siad anseo i nGailearaí na gCuairteoirí agus go bhfuil ealaíontóirí ar fud an domhain ag breathnú ar an díospóireacht seo anocht. Tá sin tábhachtach mar léiríonn sé an tábhacht a chuireann siad síos do ní hamháin na healaíona ach don pholaitíocht agus an baint atá ag an bpróiseas polaitíochta leis na healaíona.
Maidir leis na rudaí a tharla le coicís anuas, tá frustrachas i measc muintir na n-ealaíon agus tá sin le feiceáil. Tá daoine ag rud nach bhfuil an córas ceart, nach bhfuil spéis ag an Rialtas sna healaíona faoi mar a bhíodh ag rialtais eile. Is féidir le Seanadóirí gáire a dhéanamh faoi seo, ach sin atá á rá ag daoine. Dúradh sin ar an dteilifís aréir agus dúirt Colm Tóibín ar an Domhnach é sa The Sunday Business Post.Caithfimid éisteacht leis na healaíontóirí sin agus eile atá ag tabhairt moltaí don Rialtas. Caithfimid éisteacht le gach guth.
Cháin an tAire Fianna Fáil agus glacfaimid muid le roinnt cáinte maidir leis na ciorruithe a rinneadh le blianta beaga anuas, ach sílim go bhfuil stair an-mhaith ag Fianna Fáil maidir leis na healaíona. Tá an frustrachas i measc muintir na n-ealaíon le feiceáil faoi láthair agus tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh toradh maith as an bhfrustrachas sin. Tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh níos mó airgid chucu agus go dtiocfaidh níos mó neamhspleáchais chuig na healaíona agus chuig na hinstitiúidí cultúrtha sa tír. Is é an neamhspleáchas an gné is tábhachtaí den scéal seo. Tugann neamhspleáchas ceart d'ealaíontóirí a gnó féin a dhéanamh, ealaíon a chruthú, dánta a chumadh agus pictiúirí a chur ar phár. Sin an rud is tábhachtaí agus tá súil agam go dtógfaidh an tAire nua seo treo nua maidir leis na healaíona agus an méid atá faoina stiúr sa Roinn.
Le cead ón gCathaoirleach, léifidh mé dán "Ranna", dán an-ghearr le Máire Mhac an tSaoi. Measaim go léiríonn an dán seo an frustrachas atá le brath i measc muintir na n-ealaíon, rud a gcaithfidh polaiteoirí déileáil leis.
Le snoí croí is intinne
Bhreacas ar phár
M'urraim don áilleacht
Go bhfuil mar atá.
Thugas dóibh siúd é,
Leosan níorbh fhíor é,
Chuireadar uathu é -
Is níor foilsíodh é.
Feasta bead gléasta
I gcaidhp na gcloigíní;
Tréigfead an véarsa
Ag déanamh bhur ngrinn díbh.
I am a former chairman of the Garter Lane Arts Centre and many other bodies in my native city. As someone who has been involved in the arts all my life, I welcome the Minister and compliment her on an excellent contribution. It is normal practice in the House that when the Opposition tables a motion during Private Members' business, the Government tables an amendment. This evening, in a spirit of harmony, conciliation and respect for the arts, the Government decided not to oppose the motion, believing Fianna Fáil genuinely wanted to support the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht before the budget is announced next week. Alas, we should have known better. Fianna Fáil is playing politics with the motion, as it has played with the arts all of its life. I go back no further than the interregnum after the previous Government had been kicked out by the people at the last election. I will stick to the arts. In the month before the new Government took office, it appointed 18 people to arts bodies and boards. Were the positions advertised? No; not one position was advertised and I am only speaking about the 18 appointments made in the one month period after it had been kicked out of office. I will not go back as far as the two or three other Fianna Fáil Ministers who appointed many political friends, councillors, former Deputies, wives of current Senators on the other side of the House and party activists to boards.
I assure Members that stuffing boards with political hacks has been Fianna Fáil policy when in office. Before leaving the topic, before the self-proclaimed guardians of transparency come and have their say, I will refer to one body in the case of Sinn Féin. The current board includes two Sinn Féin councillors and two Sinn Féin activists.
The Minister has stated we now have a policy on the appointment of board members. She has given an indication that she is fully committed to using the public appointments process in the future in line with current Government guidelines. Last week the Government agreed to a revised model for ministerial appointments to State boards. The new requirements provide us with a more credible, transparent and robust appointments system and model which will ensure appointees are populated by the high calibre personnel required to successfully discharge the challenging and demanding mandates. I have asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to come to the Chamber to address Members on the issue of transparency and the new model for making appointments. I hope he will come to the House in early course to address the matter.
We agree on the independence of the arts, which is why we devised the model. We will deliver for the arts. I acknowledge the amount of money provided, €1.1 billion, in the six years of Fianna Fáil's tenure. I am sure every cent was spent well, but, as my colleague pointed out, €580 million has been put into the arts in the past three years by the Government, this at a time when, as the Minister pointed out, cuts were necessitated because of economic mismanagement by Fianna Fáil which resulted in the country having to access emergency funding from the troika and the collapse of the banking system. That is the legacy of Fianna Fáil. However, some good things were done in the arts. After listening to her, I am confident that the Minister is competent, capable and worthy and someone who will fight for the arts. We will support her in obtaining funding and not play politics in the way Fianna Fáil has tried to do in the motion.
I welcome the Minister. As she has had a tough start, I will not get involved in the party politics of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. She is listening and, in that spirit, I have some constructive criticisms and arguments to make about what has been mentioned. She should take it in the spirit it is intended in the sense that we are all trying to move forward. I will deal with the minutiae of why I disagree with her, but the criticism is meant to be constructive.
I also commend the Government for not proposing an amendment to the motion. That is significant because in the past politics were played with amendments to motions. I, therefore, commend the Leader for not tabling an amendment to the motion.
I acknowledge the artists, arts workers and the members of the national campaign for the arts in the Visitors Gallery. As we have a packed Visitors Gallery, there is engagement, interest, passion and ownership, which is required for the support of the arts, particularly in raising money.
I should state the obvious that I am the director of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theatre, which receives State funding through the Arts Council. As director of the Abbey Theatre, I sit on the Council of National Cultural Institutions which is in place to support the dissemination of the programmes of the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the Chester Beatty Library, the National Concert Hall, the National Archives, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Crawford Gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland and the Arts Council.
I am proud and honoured that the Taoiseach decided to nominate me as a Senator and I have done my best to be useful, supportive and responsible in my role. However, it can be fairly summarised that the coalition Government has treated the arts and culture community, at local and national level, shabbily and with disrespect and arrogance. Since the coalition Government took power, it has wielded the sword of Damocles over nearly all of the national cultural institutions in a two pronged attack, if the metaphor can be extended.
On one side, it has savagely cut budgets, as the Minister knows, but it has accepted a disproportionate cut in funding over any other Department. We need the Minister to restore the confidence of artists in art organisations by looking to stop these cuts and seek an increase. In that regard, I welcome the Minister's statement. Any support we can give her in order to motivate the Ministers, Deputy Howlin and Deputy Noonan, to increase the funding, we will give.
The figures illustrate the situation clearly. The combined funding for national cultural institutions, which was €156.7 million in 2008, was €98.2 million in 2014, which constitutes a drop of 37.4% across the sector. The total expenditure across all Government Departments and bodies, which was €61.9 billion in 2008, was €52.9 billion in 2014, which constitutes a drop of only 14.5%. Therefore, there has been a savage and disproportionate cut. Why is the arts getting such a disproportionate and savage cut? I believe the Minister now has the wind behind her and has the support of the Seanad to try to advocate for the rights of citizens, nationally and locally, to have a full experience and full access to the arts. That can only be done through increased funding.
I have no doubt the National Library, the National Gallery, the National Museum and many other arts organisations are under severe pressure to keep their doors open. In fact, I can imagine the doors are about to close on some of those. Certainly, outreach and education programmes and community programmes are being cut. The savage cuts need to stop but the sword is still swinging on what I would call this tsunami of destruction with regard to the legislation and the amalgamations, which cause great anxiety, uncertainty and strain. This is the second part of the two-pronged approach.
The Minister mentioned that she wanted to dispel the notion there is any intention to undermine the independence of our national cultural institutions and she spoke about the intention to copperfasten the legal position of each of the cultural institutions. However, the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 does just that. Both the museum and the library have a separate board, so I do not understand why those two boards have to step down. I agree that shared services are important and that the public service reform plan regarding savings has to be a priority, but it needs an arm's-length principle. The only way that arm's-length principle can be protected is if there is a statutory board to make sure the governance is sorted. There is no reason the National Library board, the National Museum board, the National Gallery board or the Irish Museum of Modern Art board cannot protect and continue that arm's-length principle.
The Minister recently introduced, under pre-legislative scrutiny, the National Concert Hall Bill. While I know it is only the pre-legislative stage and I know the Minister is listening, she is certainly proposing that she would have a wide range of powers in directing policy. Clearly, the words "arm's-length principle" and protection around directing policy are needed. None the less, I know the Minister is listening in that regard.
In June, the Government announced Culture 2025, which will be the first comprehensive cultural policy to emerge from Government in several decades. I welcome that, as I know the National Campaign for the Arts and the arts committee welcome it. As stated by the Government, it is an opportune time for a fundamental review of Ireland's cultural policy. I urge the Minister to put a steering committee in place and I understand from her speech that she is about to announce a draft paper shortly. I believe the momentum is there to deliver a national cultural policy by Easter 2016. Before then, the Minister will spend her time listening to individual artists and arts organisations, looking to see if there is a different way of doing that. What I would love her to do in that time is to suspend all governance and legislative changes currently under consideration which have an impact on the governance and independence of the national cultural institutions. They should be suspended until the framework of a national cultural policy - Culture 25 - is in place. That is the right order - the horse before the cart rather than the cart before the horse is what we are looking for.
To recap, first, the national cultural policy should be the primary purpose of national policy and the Minister's legacy will be to set that policy in stone. Second, we are here to support stopping the cuts and increasing support for the Arts Council and other national cultural institutions, so the Minister's vision can be implemented over the next couple of years.
I welcome the Minister and thank her for a fine speech, which was passionate and shows her clear commitment to her Ministry. I welcome Fianna Fáil's introduction of a motion in regard to the arts, albeit one which, as other speakers have alluded to, is entirely motivated by political opportunism. This is a shame because I feel the arts should be out of reach of political opportunism. As Senator Norris said, it is the soul of the country. In seeking to promote this debate under the guise of supposedly talking about the arts, the Fianna Fáil Members show exactly what the arts mean to them - a political football and little more, and an effort to prolong the controversy that has gone on for the last number of weeks.
Over the course of the recession, it has at times been considered too easy to put the arts to the back of the agenda. However, in defence of this Government, it has worked hard to keep the arts on the agenda and has been able to set forth the agenda for the arts and make sure that our institutions are defended when it comes to the budget. As far as I am concerned, the controversy of the last number of weeks has been a major distraction for the Minister and her committed officials from the job at hand, especially in the context of the budget. I am very pleased to hear the Minister's commitments with regard to the intensive budget negotiations that are currently under way.
The arts are something for which we are globally recognised, as other speakers have said, and a field in which we can, as a nation, invest and benefit if we do so in a strategic manner. The arts are often wrongly viewed as a drain on resources. Our books, plays, festivals and works of art are renowned across the world and we punch way above our weight internationally. We must ensure we are working to get the most out of these and ensure our talent is celebrated and nurtured through a fully rounded education within which the arts plays a role. The protection of the arts needs to be seen as a statement of intent. It serves to show that Ireland continues to treasure its art and the institutions that contain that art and that work, in order to encourage artists also.
All that being said, however, I find it interesting, or maybe frustrating or irritating, that Fianna Fáil has decided to raise the issue of guaranteeing the independence of the national cultural institutions and their boards from political interference. It is interesting because it is not so long ago that Pat Carey, as Minister, appointed a former Fianna Fáil Deputy to the Irish Film Classification Office board. What is the difference? The person, whose name I will not mention, was on a board of ten appointees who received an average of €40,000 each in fees and expenses in that year. This Fianna Fáil cronyism and largesse of the time stands in stark contrast to our principles of reducing expenses. Is this the type of independence for our national cultural institutions that Fianna Fáil is seeking? Is this the sort of arm's-length approach they are looking for? The hypocrisy is mind-blowing.
I find it interesting that Fianna Fáil has tried to engage in a debate on political cronyism. It is interesting because, right up to even the last days of its term, as Senator Cummins has already mentioned, Fianna Fáil was stuffing boards even more quickly than it had given every taxpayer in the country an absolute stuffing. Senator Cummins mentioned only the arts but, between January and March 2011, 182 board appointments were made by Fianna Fáil. That is really something else. They just cannot help it. Meanwhile, we have taken steps to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again by publicly advertising all appointments to State boards from this point on.
Would I have preferred this to happen earlier in the term? Yes, absolutely, but nevertheless, the point stands. It is something that Fianna Fáil was not bothered or able to do during its 14 years of Government. The holier-than-thou attitude is hard to take, to put it mildly.
I wish the Minister well in her Ministry. I have complete faith in her ability and her commitment, and I wish her well in the budget negotiations.
I welcome the Minister. I was not present for her previous visits, but I served with her on other committees and I congratulate her on her appointment, which I am sure will be highly successful.
The terms of the motion acknowledges the contribution of the arts - literature, music, paintings, Nobel prizes, including by Members of this House such as former Senator Yeats, and so on. Ireland has an immense arts profile which is a huge part of its national prestige. The proliferation of arts is a reason many people visit the country. There is a huge amount to be proud of and I wish the Minister well in her post.
I have some misgivings. We all can think of new things to do in the arts. It is incumbent on us to say what we should stop doing otherwise one gets the financers into trouble. It is an issue of incrementalism, we all add our new thing and nothing that has been established and running for a long time is ever questioned. I question the level of support for the film industry in this country which has been questioned by many economists. Is there a return? I will come up with the good things later but we must say what is not looking good. I worry, looking at the financial reports for the Department, about the budget of €255 million of which €70 million was spent on administration. I see administration as overheads; not the creative element relating to musicians, artists and actors.
I agree with Senator Mac Conghail when he asked us to please stop talking about governance and restructuring. We have the same thing in the university sector. People are fascinated by committees, structures and talking shops. Let us get out and do the real action which is on the stage and in front of audiences. We must divert money away from people who are fascinated by organisation charts and moving people from one place to another because nothing happens except people at the meeting talk to each other. When they get to the end of the year, and end of their public service careers, all they will have done is rearrange committees. We have to be aware of that tendency which is counter productive and corrodes the morale of creative people. I hope that the restructuring of the libraries, galleries and so on will not occupy us unduly.
The policy inherited by the Minister lacks a reference to young people. There are lots of commemorations and events where the average age must be 50 years plus. Why do we not have the actors we support and cherish in schools? Why not have musicians go to schools? Why not have rehearsals for plays and operas in schools? We have to enthuse the next generation. They never see any of these people coming to school. If they did they would be charmed and delighted. I remember my experience in school when actors visited - it was absolutely wonderful. Rehearsals must take place but why have them in a closed theatre? Let us make it part of the Minister's term in charge of this vital and necessary Department. If a lot of the actors from Senator Mac Conghail's neck of the woods, and musicians from the National Concert Hall and RTE, went to schools at lunchtime the pupils and teachers would be enthused by making the arts accessible.
We have built enough arts centres up and down the country. There is no need to build any more. There are enough parish halls and school buildings. Let us concentrate on performance.
The Minister for Finance will still have problems with finances next Tuesday. The Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht can turn a given budget into much more excitement, for young people in particular, and I wish her well in that task. Go raibh maith agat.
The Minister is very welcome to the House. I totally accept her bona fides and good intentions. As she indicated here tonight, it is important now to move forward.
The Government plans she announced last week that all appointments to State boards should be made through the public appointments process is welcome, and we all agree with it. Last night she laid out that she instructed her management team in the Department to immediately set about implementing the new system for board appointments. I note it is a system she intends to adhere to strictly.
I welcome the Minister's comprehensive speech here this evening. I welcome the fact that she outlined that her priority is to advance the policy areas she outlined in her speech, the commemorations, the cultural strategy, progressing the arts in education charter and arts in the community.
As I referred to already, the revised model for ministerial appointments to State boards, requiring that State board vacancies must be advertised openly by the Public Appointments Service, is welcome. Advertisements will set out all relevant experience, educational and other qualifications required, as well as particular attributes considered necessary. Appointments will be processed in a transparent way by PAS. The new requirements will provide us with a more credible, transparent and robust appointments model which will ensure that boards are populated by high calibre personnel required to successfully perform their challenging and demanding mandates.
As part of the Government's reform plans, the Minister intends to reduce the size of a number of boards, under her Department, on a permanent basis. Legislation, however, is needed to give statutory effect to this change. It is expected that this legislation will be published in late 2015. The heads of the Bill are currently with the relevant committee for its consideration.
I accept the Minister's priorities. She should be allowed to get on with her work. She wants to ensure that we have a 1916 commemoration that is inclusive, respectful and appropriate. She will consult widely on the best way to demonstrate this hugely significant event in our history.
I accept that she wants to make the arts more accessible and build on the important work done within her Department and the Department of Education and Skills, in terms of implementing the arts in education charter. She also wants to continue to protect and support heritage by working with local heritage groups. Under the build heritage jobs leverage scheme 2014, 578 protected buildings and historic structures across the State are on target for completion in 2014. The Government invested €5 million which has unlocked €15 million in private funding.
The Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is a breath of fresh air and I say "ar aghaidh leis an obair".
I join in the welcome and good wishes extended to the Minister.
I thank Fianna Fáil for tabling the motion. There might have been an element of mischief making, as some people have indicated, but it has given an opportunity for many people who are deeply involved in the arts, for many decades, to outline their vision for the arts and the importance of the arts. The Minister, in her speech tonight, clearly laid out her vision for arts in Ireland and recognised the huge contribution that the arts community makes to this country.
I shall take up the issue raised by Senator Barrett. He said that he was not present for the Minister's speech. He will be pleased to learn that she has indicated she wishes to make the arts more accessible to everybody and accessibility will be the cornerstone of her Ministry. Immersing school students in the arts, through a targeted strategy, will benefit future generations and give young people a greater understanding and appreciation for the arts as they progress to adulthood. The Minister's discussions with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, have been productive and will, no doubt, lead to many more young people getting involved in the arts at a young age.
In preparation for tonight's debate I looked through a number of figures. I was pleased to discover that despite savage cuts, which were necessary, to all budgets in recent years that over €0.5 billion has been allocated to the arts and cultural institutions and the film board since 2011. As I perused the figures I recognised many organisations have received significant contributions. An organisation that was very much in the news recently, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, received funding of just under €5 million last year and had 121,000 visitors. That means taxpayers subsidised each visitor to the tune of €38 per head. I am sure that level of investment was well deserved. Members of the board should look at how visitor numbers can be significantly increased to reduce that level of subsidy.
That is not what I mean. What I mean is that the number of visitors would increase significantly such that the level of subsidy would reduce. I very much welcome the investment of €22 million in various national commemorative projects in 2015. I particularly welcome the moneys being invested in Teach an Phiarsaigh in Ros Muc, as I am sure does Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. The investment will see a new visitor's centre-----
In conclusion, I wish the Minister well. She has set out a clear vision for where she intends to take the Department in the next 18 months and I have no doubt that she will have the support of every Member of the House.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire agus roimh na cuairteorí ins an gailearaí.
It is a shame that the artist is not at the centre of the debate because that is the way it should be. A country that does not know its history or that is not familiar with the people and events that shaped its collective memory is akin to a stranger who, having no idea where she has come from, is unable to find her way forward. The sorry fact is that Ireland's key cultural institutions are in a state of neglect and in disarray owing to a shocking lack of public funding. In a nutshell, this amounts to Government-inflicted death by a thousand cuts. Year after year, budget after budget, the Government has cut funding to the arts sector and the key cultural institutions which have had their boards disbanded and their independence seriously compromised, while the staff, mostly members of SIPTU, who work in them have seen their conditions of employment deteriorate. When it comes to funding and supports for our key cultural institutions, the Government's record is abysmal. For example, in 2008 the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland received €30.8 million in public funding between them, but last year they only received €17.9 million. As is so often noted, there is a madness in starving these institutions to the point of unsustainability at the very same time as public interest in what they are doing is booming.
Unfortunately, when it comes to funding for our artists, the story is no better. In that context, I received a message this morning from an artist friend of mine, who has had to move to London. He writes:
People in Ireland only take the arts seriously when calculating its contribution in attracting large multinationals to towns like Galway. We run arts festivals where no money goes to local artists and the Government funding decision on them depends on how many hotel beds they fill. Who are they working for and who is standing up for citizen artist? I was forced to move to London to have a viable career. It makes me very sad. Now England benefits from all of my experience, not Ireland. Ireland is only for trainees it seems. Shameful.I acknowledge that the Government has supported the restoration of Richmond Barracks and Kilmainham Court House. However, when we look at Kilmainham Gaol, the second most visited tourist site in the country, we see yet another lost opportunity owing to lack of vision and funding. It is now almost impossible for a member of the public to gain access to the gaol during the summer months because almost all of the tours are pre-booked by touring companies. This means that schools, community groups and even returning emigrants are highly unlikely to gain access. Right across Europe important institutions remain open into the early hours of the morning and midnight tours are common practice. Unfortunately, most of our public cultural institutions are beset by a failure to capitalise on their huge tourist potential.
On the McNulty debacle, the biggest insult was to artists, the many highly qualified people who could have been appointed to the board of IMMA. A number of artists have contacted me today and requested that I make some points on their behalf in the House tonight. One artist is actually critical of the many artists who are no longer engaged in politics. He argues that they are not critiquing politicians in a way that would have been done in the past. I note that Robert Ballagh derided the lack of revolutionaries, political thinkers and activists in the arts sector. Artists have told me that they feel they are not listened to or respected in the way that they once were, as the satirist and the voice of reason. They believe the value of the arts has been overly commodified and that the art colleges are becoming too middle class and too accepting of the status quo. That is an issue on which we could deliberate further at a later date. The arts community was highly insulted by the way in which the recent appointments were made to the board of IMMA. Artists argue that Ireland has huge creative capital which must be supported but that there is the lack of an acknowledgment of the arts as a sector in itself and the artist as the creator of cultural capital. Although I support the idea of artists working in the educational sphere, I do not think it should be a condition of their receiving a grant that they have to teach in a school. We should recognise them as artists and what they do as important in its own right. The State as a patron in controlling the arts is an issue for many artists. They argue that when they receive a grant from the State, they are made to feel they must do things in a certain way.
I must note the cruel irony in the Private Members' motion. Asking the Government to provide details of its plans to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising is absolutely legitimate. However, we should not forget that it was as a result of Fianna Fáil corruption, wheeling and dealing that the country's most significant historical site in the context of the 1916 Rising and the foundation of the State will shortly be turned into a parking lot and shopping arcade.
When in government Fianna Fáil could have issued a compulsory purchase order and acquired Moore Street and the surrounding lanes of history from NAMA. As we know, this did not happen and instead a bankrupt private developer was allowed to let this historical quarter descend into a state of abject disrepair and decay. Surely, if ever there was a metaphor for the decay and corruption at the heart of political life in Ireland, this is it.
It is also nothing short of a disgrace that the Government has not yet published a full programme of events to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. I spoke to James Connolly Heron, a great grandson of James Connolly, who is very disillusioned, as are the other relatives of the signatories to the Proclamation, that he has not yet seen a draft programme of events. Thus far, all we know is that a parade will take place on the Easter Monday. Apart from that, I am not aware of any other event. This is shameful and well beyond what would be considered a reasonable timescale. Fundamentally it means that Bord Fáilte will not have adequate time to advertise the various events abroad and bring much needed tourist revenue into the capital. It also means that community groups, NGOs, sports organisations and others are unable to plan events as, to date, no funding has been ringfenced for 1916-specific events. Also, as far as I am aware, no meetings have taken place between the Abbey Theatre and the other key cultural institutions and the Government about the running of special centenary exhibitions, plays etc. This is particularly worrying as such events take time and money to organise, promote and plan. In addition, most of these institutions plan at least 24 months in advance. I ask the Minister to state exactly when we will see the programme of planned events for the commemoration of the 1916 Rising and when work will begin on the permanent 1916 exhibition at the GPO.
There is much more one could say on this topic and I would like to speak more on behalf of artists who have contacted me. Perhaps we might organise a specific debate on artists, the arts and the value of same at a future date.
Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire. I congratulate the Minister on her appointment to high office. I did not have an opportunity to do so in the House previously. The debacle in recent weeks involving a fellow Donegal man, Mr. McNulty, was unfortunate, but we must now focus on what is really important in the lead-up to the budget. It is time to leave petty party politics behind and move on. Recent events highlight several issues, including how appointments are made to State boards and the commitments made before the last general election. The main issue they highlight, however, is that the political system is broken. It is not working and not effective. I am not making any political point. Senators may laugh if they wish, but I am not trying to score political points. People went before the electorate and promised to do things differently. Politics cannot be run on the basis of putting people in positions based on their political affiliations.
My own party did do it and it was wrong to do so. If we are to develop a new Ireland in the lead-up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising, it is time to do politics differently. It is time to stop playing petty party politics. If people make mistakes, they should come out and say so and provide the information requested of them.
To move on to the important issue of the arts, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the motion and congratulate my colleagues on tabling it. In the lead-up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising we must ask ourselves who we are and where we are going as a people.
Part of our history as a people is the Irish language, arts and culture, and what better way to commemorate in 2016 than by enshrining the culture of arts and the Irish language in our future work. This will require funding, resources and commitment. I hope the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, will fight tooth and nail for a financial commitment from this Government in the lead-up to 2016, as otherwise we would only be paying lip service to the project. We must provide funding for the rejuvenation of the Irish language and the development of our cultural and artistic facilities and people across the country. I agree with Senator Barrett as there is a role for our children and a new Ireland.
I appeal to the Leader and the Minister for a debate on the 2016 commemorations. Instead of discussing the issue now, we should have a structured debate on 2016 in the Chamber in the coming weeks.
I thank my colleague, Senator Ó Domhnaill, for sharing his time and I echo his welcoming comments to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. It is my first opportunity to welcome her to the House and wish her well. I should also put on record the outstanding contribution of her predecessor and former Minister, Deputy Deenihan, to the arts over the past while. I am somewhat saddened that in the contributions there seems to be an element of just having a go at Fianna Fáil.
I am saddened because if I used the research service, I could find out that former Fine Gael and Labour Party coalitions did exactly the same. I have put it on record in the past and Senator Ó Domhnaill has said it again.
Senator Ó Domhnaill is right, as every Government from the foundation of the State and the creation of State boards has done exactly the same. The Senator is correct that the practice is wrong. I am glad this Government has been forced by public opinion to change the system, although not of its own volition. Public opinion led to the change of the corrupt system, and that is why we would welcome such changes.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to the arts and her acknowledgement that funding for the sector has been considerably reduced over the past number of years because of the economic position. I will pick up one point which I hope the Minister can follow through. She indicated:
The arts are for everyone and I am very aware of the great work done by arts officers in local authorities throughout the country. I want to work closely with them in bringing the arts to communities.In my county of Leitrim, we have several wonderful arts centres. There is the Glens Centre at Manorhamilton and the Corn Mill Theatre, a national award-winning theatre group in Carrigallen, which is on the Cavan border and close to the Minister's constituency. There is also the famous Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon. All of these are funded, to a large extent, by the local authority as well as the Arts Council, unlike many of the 60 to 70 arts centres across the country funded almost exclusively by the Arts Council. The Dock receives approximately €25,000 or €30,000. Most local authorities will be facing into a very tough estimates meeting, as everybody knows. Although conditions are changing, thanks be to God, there will still be a considerable shortfall.
I am confident the Minister will use her lofty position to try to ensure that when discussion arises around the Cabinet table about the block grant to local authorities, the arts will not be forgotten. I know the Minister cannot in any way direct county managers or locally elected representatives to decide budgets but I hope a message will be sent out to ensure budgets are not cut any further, as they are really at breaking point.
On 26 October 1963 at Amherst College, President John F. Kennedy stated that he looked forward to a country which would reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft, which would steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment-----
I will share time with Senator van Turnhout.
Government policy for the arts is set out in the Programme for Government, and it is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. I will omit much of what I had proposed to say and focus on the proposed commemorations of the 1916 Rising. Development of an inclusive and detailed programme of events for commemoration of the 1916 Rising is continuing, with the Minister happy to meet spokespersons to discuss plans for commemoration, which is to be applauded. There is a desire for this process to be as inclusive as possible, and all suggestions are welcome. It is important that commemorations be respectful, inclusive and sensitive, as this is a major commemoration for our country because of its significance in our history. The tone must be respectful and appropriate.
I ask the Minister to do her best in protecting our national cultural institutions from further budget cuts for the forthcoming year. Our national cultural institutions are doing fantastic work, although they have suffered unavoidable cuts in their allocation in recent years. Every publicly funded body has had to deal with this difficult reality during the economic crisis.
I warmly welcome the Minister to the House. Sitting here listening to the debate, I thought of the Churchill quote about never letting a good crisis go to waste. I hope that from tonight we will see increased funding and support for the arts. I have certainly been energised by the Minister's comments about the Culture 2025 strategy. With my background in children and youth work, I know we are now on our second major national children's strategy, which brings everybody together and energises people. I hope the strategy even does a bit of that for arts and cultural communities. The consultation and engagement suggested by the Minister is a really good way forward.
I support the comments of my colleagues, Senators O'Donnell and Mac Conghail, although I will not reiterate them at this time. It is very important to protect the "arm's length principle" and the figures presented by Senator Mac Conghail on funding are startling. We need to restore that funding. I also testify to the importance of arts in youth work, education, non-formal and formal learning settings.
I should focus on the cultural heritage element. Genealogy is a hobby of mine and I have seen the richness of our National Archives and our National Library of Ireland first-hand. When I saw the figures 18 months ago, I saw that there are 47 staff in those bodies, with 14 archivists. In Scotland there are 160 staff and Denmark has 261 staff, with 88 archivists. In Ireland we pride ourselves on our cultural identity, and if we are really serious, we must invest in these treasures and the richness of resources we have. I fully support the Minister in her work and I hope we can work together. I thank her for coming before us tonight.
I welcome the Minister. This has been a worthwhile debate. To those who criticised the motion as being a Trojan horse I say that if my colleague, Senator Thomas Byrne, had not questioned the relevant appointment a couple of weeks ago, we might not even be discussing it. I hope we will all learn from this matter. I certainly hope the Minister will learn from it. She has stated she has done so, which is welcome. If we were to proceed on the basis that we, as Oireachtas Members, should not question anything, what would happen? I recall that on the day on which the matter to which I refer was raised here on the Order of Business, the Leader indicated there was nothing to see. However, that did not prove to be the case. We all know that what happened in this instance was wrong, but it is done.
Let us focus on the arts and the commemorations. I am glad that Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh is present because he and other colleagues referred to the 1916 Rising commemoration. Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill requested a separate debate on the matter. We have already engaged in such a debate, but there is no plan or schedule in place. On Monday last I was the only Oireachtas Member from any party to attend a meeting in City Hall on the situation relating to Moore Street. Like many others in the House, some of my relatives were involved in the Easter Rising. The proposed commemoration must be inclusive, but I am somewhat concerned about what the Government means when it refers to "inclusivity". If it means inviting members of the British royal family to attend the commemoration, to do so would be wrong. If we do, we might as well invite the descendants of General Sir John Maxwell who was responsible for executing the leaders of the Easter Rising. We must be cautious because it is our commemoration. We commemorate the First World War, rightly so. Former Taoisigh and Senator David Norris want to debase and degrade the memory of the leaders of the Rising and I abhor this. However, those to whom I refer are entitled to their opinions. It has been suggested we commemorate John Redmond who sent hundreds of thousands of people - a large proportion of whom were slaughtered in the trenches - to fight for the British Empire on mainland Europe. That is fine. I do not agree that John Redmond, in particular, should be commemorated, but if that is what inclusivity involves, I will accept it.
I welcome the Minister's contribution, but it was short on content, detail and focus. The first legislative proposal she has produced is the general scheme of the national cultural institutions (National Concert Hall) Bill which states the board of the National Concert Hall must report to the Minister and take policy decisions from her "in such other manner and at such intervals at the Minister may direct". The proposed legislation is very strong on ministerial direction and does not even allow for criticism of the Minister or Government policy. If we want an arm's length approach - we do - then people's hands should not be tied behind their backs. The Minister should listen to the views of those in the arts and cultural sector. It is not just the major museums, art galleries and theatres which all do a fantastic job on which we should be focusing. We should champion the work of the Séamus Ennis Cultural Centre, the Millbank Theatre, Draíocht and so on because they all make a contribution. I think most Members would agree with me in that regard.
The situation which arose in recent weeks was extremely unfortunate. However, it was not my fault or that of my colleagues that it came to light. Should I be quiet and say nothing about it? If we want to debate appointments to State boards, etc., we can do so and fling mud at one another all we want. I was obliged to put questions to the Minister this evening because I had not obtained answers to the one I had asked previously. I am going to leave the matter at that for now because there seems to be no point in pursing it further, which is unfortunate. The Government stated it was going to operate in a transparent and open manner and do things differently. However, we cannot obtain answers from it.
I welcome the contributions made by all Members during the debate. The motion was tabled to highlight the position on the arts, funding for which has been dramatically reduced in recent years by the Government and that which preceded it. There is a need for us to refocus our efforts for the arts. If we were not to raise the issue of appointments to State boards - let us forget about IMMA for one moment in this regard - would it be the case that the Government could appoint whomever it wanted to whichever board it saw fit? If that is what has emerged from the current situation, good. What my party is seeking is a refocusing on the areas of arts and culture and for the State to get its act together in respect of the extremely important commemoration due to be held in 2016.
I wish the Minister luck. I hope matters improve for her and I am sure they will. She will obtain agreement from us when policies with which we can agree are brought forward. However, the first legislative proposal she has introduced - the general scheme of the national cultural institutions (National Concern Hall) Bill - falls way short of what is required. The proposed legislation will restrict and constrict activities in the sector as a result of the over-emphasis on ministerial direction.
I again welcome this debate. Anyone who peruses the text of the motion will see that it contains no criticism of the Government. Hence, no amendment has been tabled by those opposite. I would be happy if we could obtain broad agreement in the House to hold a follow-on debate with the Minister - without the necessity of tabling a Private Members' motion to facilitate it - in two or three months time in order that we might discuss the various aspects relating to the sector. I accept that the Minister will probably not want to see the inside of this Chamber for a long time to come, but perhaps she might see her way clear to return in eight or ten weeks.