When I was appointed by An Taoiseach to this brief, I resolved that I would try to make the arts and culture our national script. In other words, it would be central - an essential part of the narrative about the character of a new, different, changed and better Ireland.
A country like Ireland survives, grows and prospers on foundations built on the talent and ability of its people. Human ability, resilience and creativity are its bedrock. The more they are developed, the better we are. Today’s goods and services require high value added input - some of it comes from technology and financial capital. Most of it comes from people - their ability to innovate, to adapt, to think and to be creative.
The whole process of stimulation through music, drama, literature, films, works of art; the delight in design, in architecture, in crafts, enlarges a country's capacity to be reflective, interested, dynamic and bold. Dynamism in the arts and culture, I believe, leads to dynamism too in a nation - a kind of national re-awakening.
So when more children get access to the possibilities of art and creativity, it is not the art alone that they learn; it is the art of living, thinking for themselves and creating. They may never become an artist or a dancer or a designer, but in whatever job and in whichever walk of life they choose, they will carry an idea that is not just about commerce, but about what makes the ordinary special and the extraordinary possible.
That is why I am putting arts in education at the heart of my Ministerial objectives for the arts. I have met the Minister for Education to discuss a range of ideas. These have been further elaborated by a team headed up by the Assistant Secretaries of the two Departments and we are developing a draft Charter for Arts in Education.
When young people can visit museums and see great works of art, they take some of the inspiration with them. A nation that cares about arts and culture and its youth will not be a better nation only - it will be a more successful one. Because arts and culture, more than any other programmes of government, worthy and necessary though those are, can make people think, see things differently, and understand where the other comes from. We need to teach young people to think and create and not just to remember.
I believe that the next 4 years can be an exciting time for the arts and culture sector. The combination with the Irish language and heritage responsibility makes imminent sense and I look forward to seeking out and building on the self evident synergies between the three areas.
Over the course of the next 4 years, I will:
• Work to maintain employment levels in the sector;
• Increase visitor numbers to the cultural institutions to 4.5 million per annum by 2016.
So far this year visitor numbers are up about 4% on last year’s record numbers
of 3.5 million;
• Enhance engagement with the arts from the community up, with particular reference to
• Continue to support our National Cultural Institutions;
• Build on Ireland's cultural brand through the work of my Department’s Culture Ireland –
especially in the US and in the BRIC countries, and during our Presidency in Europe;
• Finalise development work on key regional arts and culture infrastructure;
• Complete refurbishment of the National Gallery Historic Wings;
• Ensure that key arts and culture venues in major centres throughout the country
remain in business;
• Maximise the return from section 481 Film production relief;
• Leverage the impact of our expertise in the animation business and build on the
success of Brown Bag, Cartoon Saloon and Jam, amongst others;
• In the context of our jobs strategy, move forward on implementing the
recommendations of the Creative Capital report on the film and television production
sector, which I published last summer;
• Maintain our competitive position on film and TV production internationally to drive
inward investment opportunities in co-operation with IDA and the industrial
• Build on the success of the Regional Festivals programme in 2012 as part of an
integrated cultural and regional tourism drive;
• Maximize the impact of the 1901 and 1911 Census digitization project in conjunction
with the tourism agencies, and advance the proposal to publish the 1926 Census on
• Build on the business links established through Culture Ireland's promotion programme
in China, the US and UK;
• Address economic reputational damage through cultural promotional work and
maintain our prominent position internationally, particularly in theatre, music, dance
and traditional music;
• Reorganise and achieve economies of scale across the sectors through shared
• Maintain regional venues and touring programmes within available funding;
• Leverage the City of Literature designation for the whole country;
• Work on an exciting commemorative programme for this decade of centenaries.
And we have to achieve all of this in the context of reduced Government expenditure in order to meet the EU/IMF targets.
In doing this, I believe that we’re building on our innate strengths in the arts. These are brand recognition and quality; scale; an inherent capacity for renewal; and the fact that arts and culture are now a recognised part of the economic mix.
Our stock is high internationally in the arts, culture and film sector. For instance, the value of column inches generated by our cultural ambassadors in 2011 is estimated at €20m worth of advertising. Because they were all positive column inches!
We need to build on that and leverage the impact of our world class artists. We need to work together with tourism and enterprise agencies. Each opportunity internationally is potentially a marketing opportunity for our country- a moment of truth. We host the EU Presidency in 2013. That’s a 550 million audience opportunity!
On the film and audiovisual sector, I believe too that the opportunities are considerable. The Government recognises this as an important economic sector, and an internationally traded one. I published Creative Capital, the 5 year development strategy for the sector in 2011 and I have put the implementation committee in place already. We should build on the successes of recent years and work to maintain hard won competitiveness and craft reputation. Technology opportunities should be exploited. Our web hosting, data centre and high-speed international broadband infrastructure should be leveraged. A closer alignment between writing and film talent might bring even more benefits. Our Film Festivals should become world class. I recently reopened our only Art House cimema in the capital – the Lighthouse.
International partnership and collaboration too is full of possibilities. There has been a tendency to undersell ourselves here. To give a few examples, the National Gallery is in the top 50 most visited art galleries in the world! In the visitors’ leagues internationally, it is ahead of the San Francisco MOMA . IMMA lies ahead of the Whitney in New York and of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Collectively, cultural institutions had more visitors in 2009 than the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, placing us (in aggregate visitor terms) in the top eight of the most visited museums and galleries in the world. That is a remarkable statement about what we have. It says clearly that we have something to bring to international partners.
If the number of visitors to the Book of Kells, is included, we would probably be in the top five in the world! That quite an achievement for a small island nation that is geographically on the periphery of Europe. An exciting range of possibilities include further US and EU linkages; the possible development of partnerships with the private sector; further academic developments, including joint research projects, internships, extramural programmes and summer schools; the increased promotion of Dublin as a creative city via initiatives such as Culture Night, and opportunities to engage the public in cultural life with the potential to further promote this city, and Ireland, as a destination for cultural tourists.
Indeed, one of our specific commitments the Programme for the Government is to expand Culture Night concept and I’ve set the wheels in motion on that already. I have a strong sense that we can achieve this by the designation of St Patricks Day as the International Day of Irish Culture, and build on solid foundations already in place. Culture Night 2012 will be even bigger than in 2011.
Literature is our primary cultural announcer on the world stage. Our writers and dramatists introduce us in the international arena. Thanks to Government funding through my Department, we are now also known internationally in dance, contemporary music, visual arts, and many other art forms. In the digital world your customer is just 0.8 seconds away anywhere on the globe. There are novel partnerships across the technology platforms which are possible here.
With imagination and technological know-how, we can bring our collections and our artists to whole new markets. Look at the success of the online census. If we got even 1% of those 200 million online hits to this country, we would increase annual visitor numbers by 33%! Can you imagine the value of placing the collections of the National Library at the disposal of every school child in the country?
More and more of global business is done on the web. We have to be there in an imaginative and compelling way. And we need to have a centre of literary excellence in Dublin. I’m exploring a number of possibilities on that. I believe that we have the content for this and, with clever use of the existing stock of public buildings, we can accommodate it in a manner appropriate to its importance. My vision for this is very simple. It is a place where all the public and visitors could encounter writers of the past, engage with writers of the present and encourage writers of the future. It is a place in which our rich literary heritage would be brought to life – an embarkation point and launching pad for the literary visitor; a pantheon, if you will, of Irish writers. There is no doubt that we are a world class artistic and creative hub.
In the last two years, Irish artists continued to make a major impact on the global stage. Five Oscar nominations brought international focus and acclaim to the Irish animation sector, with Richard Baneham – a graduate of Ballyfermot College - winning an Academy Award for Special Effects for "Avatar". Joan Bergin won a third Emmy for her costume design on "The Tudors". Outstanding Irish documentary "His and Hers" won the Best Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Michael Fassbender (from Killarney) won best actor at the Venice Film Festival, and Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, produced in Dublin by Alan Moloney and screenplay written by John Banville, is opening the Los Angeles Film Festival.
The Villagers (Rock Group) made an international breakthrough with their nomination for the prestigious Mercury music prize. Colm Toibín's "Brooklyn" won the Costa Novel Award, and Colm McCann won the IMPAC for “Let the Great World Spin” .
Paul Murray's novel, "Skippy Dies", was selected by Time magazine as one of the top three novels of 2010, and was on the holiday reading this year of President Obama, and Prime Minister David Cameron. "Room" by Emma Donoghue was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Award.
And in their top ten list of theatre productions for 2010, the New York Times included Druid's production of Enda Walsh's, "Penelope". With the same production, Enda Walsh and Druid also won a third Fringe First in a row at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The New York Times selected two Irish books in their top five fiction list for 2010 – Emma Donoghue's "Room" and William Trevor's Selected Stories. This year Pat Kinnevan enthralled the Edinburgh Festival with a great fusion of dance and acting talent.
Arts and Culture spans so many disciplines. There is not a sector of the arts that cannot contribute to our re-growth and redefinition as a nation. We have to develop a particular model of government working with the cultural sector that is both successful and distinctively Irish, and that recognises the constraints on the public purse.
That model is a mixed new economy model. It combines public funding with private enterprise, philanthropy, subsidy and the box office together with new media and technology. It is hallmarked by partnerships between the creative sectors and sponsors in the private and philanthropic sectors. Critically, the Arts Council operates as an arm's-length body so the State is placed in the position of doing what it can do well – creating the right policy conditions and funding - and not what it has no business doing - control of the arts.
The simplicity of this model is that public subsidy permits risk-taking in creativity. A new breed of entrepreneurial leaders in the arts world has shown that art of the highest quality is compatible with sound financial discipline. As a result of my initiative in this space, new Philanthropy initiatives will be rolled out for the arts very shortly.
Indeed, the public subsidy produces a return, and not just in creativity, but in economic activity and social impact. Taking into account economic multipliers, the Value Added dependent on the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2008 was €11.8 billion or 7.6% of total GNP, according to DKM. Cultural tourism is a key element of Ireland’s tourism industry. The list of top visitor attractions is dominated by natural and built heritage, and in addition, festivals, musical and other events attract major numbers of attendees.
Some 43% of our 3.53 million overseas visitors engaged in cultural/historical visits while in Ireland in 2008. These visitors spent €2.3 billion which is 56% of the total overseas visitor spend in Ireland. Tourists who engage in cultural pursuits while in Ireland are higher than average spenders. A total of €3.03 billion, or 2% of GNP, is at least partly dependent on overseas cultural tourism. Domestic cultural tourism would add significantly to this. A total of 73,000 jobs are dependent on cultural tourism in 2008 - 3.4% of the total workforce. There is a very significant showcase impact from Irish culture, which raises the profile of the country and has a substantial economic benefit, most directly on tourism.
There is a strong regional aspect to the arts, culture and creative sectors; a cultural activity is strongly rooted in locality. Remoteness from larger metropolitan areas is less of a disadvantage than in some other sectors, and in some cases is an enhancing factor. This is most obvious in the area of events and festivals and in the related cultural tourism. Examination of the most popular visitor attractions and events in Ireland in recent years points to a range of locations around the country, including many along the western seaboard. For instance, the third most popular visitor attraction in Ireland is the Cliffs of Moher.
Total Exchequer expenditure on the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2011 is €135m. The 2008 equivalent was €220m. Against this, direct Exchequer revenue from the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2008 was approximately €1 billion. The growth rate of the creative sector in Ireland has been well above the European average, indicating the importance of creative Industries for overall Irish economic performance. The new enterprise model for the Irish economy recognizes the vital importance of the arts, culture and creative sectors, and places strong emphasis on creativity, the accumulation of knowledge, and the development of ideas and designs as well as the application of technology.
The combined arts, culture and creative sectors is globally one of the fastest growing, representing 7% of global GDP and growing at 10% per annum. Likewise, cultural tourism is expected to experience growth of 15% per annum. Thus the culture-related sectors will be one of the key growth areas, which Ireland must tap into for economic and employment opportunities over the next decade, if it is to recover from the current severe recession.
Furthermore, on a global scale the culture-related sectors are expected to be a significantly greater part of the international economy in the future, and Ireland must make its presence felt in these sectors if the overall economy is to be a competitive leader in the future. I have no doubt that those in this sector have the capacity and creativity to make that impact.
My first year in office has not passed without my tackling long running and contentious issues. I’m referring, of course, to the peat issue. It is clear from Mr. Justice Quirke’s Report that communication between the State and affected turf-cutters has not been what it might have been over the past twenty years and trust needs to be re-established. The Peatland Forum, chaired by Mr Justice Quirke, allowed for a frank exchange of views and an examination of the potential solutions for each of the 53 raised bog SACs. I hope that we are now moving to put in place the conditions for the State and turf-cutters to turn over a new page and work together to address this difficult issue.
The IFA, the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, Bord na Móna, individual representatives of turf-cutting groups and environmental groups have done enormous work over the past months and years in trying to find a resolution to this issue within the legal constraints that we face, and they are to be commended.
In his report Mr Justice Quirke recommended the preparation of National Raised Bog SAC Strategy which could provide some limited flexibility for a few of the most difficult bogs and in full compliance with the EU Habitats Directive.
The bar is set very high in seeking flexibility. Any case made must show that it stands up in terms of being for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, there being no alternatives, and any such proposals must obtain the consent of the European Commission. It is also clear that there will be a requirement for compensatory habitat to meet the requirements of the Directive. Preparation of the plan would require the closest ongoing consultation with the European Commission.
The State has no option but to ensure that the sites are protected and I would appeal again to turf-cutters to refrain from turf-cutting on these 53 SACs while the plan is being produced. I am now in a position to begin to roll out solutions, over the coming months, to many of the communities who came to the Forum.”
I also announced that the Government has agreed to an enhanced package of measures to assist those who are affected by the requirement to cease cutting turf on 53 raised bog Special Areas of Compensation.
The enhanced compensation includes the following:
• Qualifying turf-cutters who opt for the annuity scheme will now be offered €1,500 per annum, index linked, for a period of fifteen years. This is an increase of €500 per annum to the previous terms of the scheme.
• All qualifying turf-cutters participating in the scheme will also receive a once-off payment of €500 in the first year of the scheme.
• Turf-cutters who opt to relocate to an undesignated bog will also receive a one off payment of €500 and will be entitled to receive either a payment of €1500 (increased from €1000) or a delivery of 15 tonnes of turf (increased from 10 tonnes) for each year until their relocation bog is ready to commence turf-cutting. The scheme will also allow for flexibility in terms of the provision of more than 15 tonnes of turf for those wishing to relocate where more than one household in the same family has sourced its turf from a single bog plot.
The decision increases the value of the annuity scheme by €8000 per applicant to a total of €23,000. These payments will be exempt from capital gains tax in accordance with a provision in the Finance Bill, 2012.
The Government decided, following discussions I and my officials have had with affected turf-cutting groups and land-owner representative groups such as the IFA and the TCCA, that the enhanced compensation package is justifiable. While these are extremely difficult times for the tax-payer and we must think very carefully about how public funds are used, the individuals affected by the cessation of turf-cutting are being asked to sacrifice their traditional source of fuel for the good of the wider community and for Ireland to meet its EU legal commitments.
The increases in payments will be automatically applied to existing applicants to the annuity scheme or for those who have agreed to relocate but are in receipt of payments under the interim arrangements. Back payments will also be applied automatically. Any person who has entered into a contract with the Department to relocate under the scheme will be given an opportunity to review that decision in light of the adjustments to the annuity scheme.
The innate value of Ireland’s unique natural habitat and the necessity to protect it from harm must be recognised. There is no more unique habitat in Europe than our remaining examples of functioning raised bog. We are legally bound to protect the relatively small amount of raised bog habitat remaining in Ireland that we have nominated as Special Areas of Conservation.
In effect, what we are asking is that the communities affected by the designations sacrifice, or change, part of their cultural heritage, so that we maintain a representative sample of this very valuable part of our natural heritage for future generations. Not to do so would be unforgiveable.
This then places an obligation on the State to compensate fairly, or otherwise look after the needs, of those whose traditional rights are being curtailed. This Government is committed to that principle.
Finally, to conclude, we had very specific commitments in the Programme for Government, and I’m glad to say that I have delivered on most of them after a little over a year in office.
Notes to Editors:
Touring of Arts in Ireland: A further €740k has been allocated by the Arts Council to enable 33 arts organisations & artists tour in venues nationwide in 2012. This is in addition to €750k which had previously been committed. A further €125,000 has been allocated to four artists and organisations to assist with their advance touring plans for 2013.
Building private support of the Arts in Ireland (D/AHGA): Arising from a report produced by an informal consultative /representative group of Arts and philanthropic interests, my Department, at my request, is examining a pilot-scheme which would form an incentive to leverage funding from the private sector along the lines of a successful pre-pilot approach taken in respect of a specific arts organisation/venue at the end of last year. The Arts Council is also engaged in developing a capacity building programme for philanthropy in arts organisations. Last month, after year long negotiations, I secured the AIB corporate art collection for the State.
Culture Night 2011: This event took place on the 23rd of September 2011 in a record 30 towns and cities throughout the island of Ireland, showcasing the best of our artistic and cultural heritage and facilities. It is estimated that upwards of 200,000 visitors participated in the event in 2011, with over 150 cultural venues in Dublin alone welcoming visitors until late in the evening. Arising from discussions, most notably at Global Irish Economic Forum, as to the most appropriate way to build on the success and popularity of Culture Night for 2012 and beyond, I designated St Patrick's Day as the International Day of Irish Culture, thereby building on solid foundations already in place.
Local Authority Arts Officers: Arts Officers are in place in all local authority areas. I met each Arts Officer and a template for local arts plans has been developed and published.
NAMA properties which may be suitable as local facilities for art and culture: Engagement is ongoing with NAMA in relation to assets of interest from a cultural perspective. The re-opening of the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield is a case in point. My Department has recently met with and written to representatives of NAMA in terms of the responsibilities of owners and occupiers of protected structures under Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010. My Department will continue to liaise with NAMA in this regard and on issues of advice/appropriate reuse, where applicable.
An Gaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht
20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language: Progress has been made in implementing the 20-Year Strategy, including approval by Government of the priority drafting of the Gaeltacht Bill. The Government also re-established the Cabinet Committee on the Irish Language and the Gaeltacht to bring a greater strategic focus to Irish language policy development and implementation.
Official Languages Act: A public consultation was completed in January 2012 with over 1,400 survey responses and 240 submissions received.
Peatlands and Turf cutting: As mentioned earlier the Government established a Peatlands Council and a compensation scheme for Turf Cutters. There is ongoing dialogue with stakeholders to ensure cessation of turf-cutting on designated Special Areas of Conservation Raised Bogs.