A sporting nation, proud of our language, culture and heritage

Our culture, heritage, language and sport define us as a people. They bring us together, are central to good physical and mental health, and give us great pride.

Our ambition is that:

  • every child has the opportunity to take part in sport, the arts and to appreciate our national heritage;
  • gender, background or location is no barrier and that every community has access to cultural and sporting facilities and enjoyment;
  • use and enjoyment of the Irish language is increasing in Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas alike;
  • the majority of our population, at every age level, is partaking in regular sporting activity (be it casual or organised); and
  • our heritage is properly protected, promoted and to the greatest extent possible accessible.

Among the actions that will be brought forward to meet this ambition are:

Doubling investment in culture, heritage, the Irish language and sport to double impact

Across culture, heritage, the Irish language and sport we will double the budget by 2025. ‘Project Ireland 2040’ provides for sustained investment programmes in all those areas over the next decade.

In terms of the current expenditure, increased expenditure in the first instance will be focused on delivering ‘Culture 2025’ and the Creative Ireland programme. The ‘Irish Language 20 Year Strategy’ will guide investment in that area and the recently published ‘Sports Policy’ will form the basis for sports related expenditure. In heritage, investment will be subsequent to the developing of comprehensive policy programmes. As with all areas of expenditure there will be a need for the taxpayer to see and understand the impact of their investment in these activities, and public engagement will be a major part of all activity.

In the area of sport, this increased funding will be dependent on progress towards the high-level targets in the Sports Policy 2018-2027, in particular the elimination of the gender gap in sporting participation, and the increase of active sporting participation in the adult population from the current level of 43% to 50%. Similar targets will be developed for participation in cultural and heritage activities, especially increasing participation by disadvantaged socio-economic groups.

Delivering Creative Ireland

Creative Ireland is the legacy programme arising from the hugely successful 2016 Centenary Programme. We will work to ensure that this ambitious five year strategy which places culture and creativity at the heart of public policy is implemented in full.

Developing our cultural infrastructure

One of the key pillars of Creative Ireland is enhanced investment in our cultural infrastructure. As a nation we are rightly proud of the role of our National Cultural Institutions in our country’s development. The National Gallery of Ireland reopened its doors to the public in June 2017 following a €30 million renovation of its historic wings. In ‘Project Ireland 2040’ the government has committed to the first multi-annual programme of capital investment in our cultural infrastructure. Over the next ten years, the following capital works will be carried out in our National Cultural Institutions:

  • National Library of Ireland renovation;
  • National Archives of Ireland renovation;
  • National Museum of Ireland master-plan redevelopment;
  • National Concert Hall renovation;
  • Crawford Art Gallery redevelopment;
  • National Theatre redevelopment;
  • Irish Museum of Modern Art renovation;
  • National Gallery of Ireland – further phases of the master-plan redevelopment;
  • Chester Beatty Library improvements.

Geography should not limit people’s ability to fully partake in our national cultural life. ‘Project Ireland 2040’ provides for €40 million over the next decade for the highly successful nationwide Arts and Culture Capital Scheme that was introduced by Fine Gael.

We will develop initiatives so that the National Cultural Institutions are brought on tour to towns across the country. We will also enable greater national touring programme by artists. Included in this will be the National Symphony Orchestra which, funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and residing in the renovated National Concert Hall, will be fully staffed and will offer a national touring programme and educational and outreach programmes.

Developing Ireland as a Global Hub for Film, TV and Animation

Ireland has a growing indigenous media production and audiovisual industry, already supplying the media content buyers and distributors around the globe. We will drive this development through an investment of over €200 million, enabling Ireland to become a global leader for the production of film, TV drama and animation, growing employment in the sector to over 24,000 and increasing gross value added to €1.4 billion.

This ambitious goal will be enabled by a comprehensive suite of initiatives. These include reform and extension of Section 481 Film Tax Relief; optimising the funding schemes available including TV drama, games and regional productions; assistance for skills development for the sector; and regulatory reform.

Decade of Centenaries – Valuing our history

The period from 1912 to 1923 was one of the most eventful in Ireland’s history. The programme of commemorations since 2012 has marked those events with appropriate dignity and respect. In particular, the 1916 Commemorations Programme helped assert a common ownership of our history and heritage.

Building on this experience, we will ensure that as we come to commemorate the War of Independence and the Civil War that this is done in a way which is balanced and respectful. We will not seek to challenge anyone’s loyalties but rather to foster greater understanding. We will be guided in this approach by the All-Party Consultation Committee and the Expert Advisory Committee.

Supporting urban regeneration with cultural centres

Throughout Ireland, cultural activity is a powerful driver of quality of life and wellbeing. Cultural productions can play an important part in the regeneration of urban Ireland, whether through music, drama, dance or other forms of performance. We will facilitate this through finance and mentoring for the development of existing and new centres for cultural activity, comprising of spaces for both creatives and wider arts and community groups, as well as performance and exhibition space.

Improving linkages between the arts and schools

Through the Creative Children initiative, we will work to ensure that every child in Ireland will have access to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding by 2022. The first phase of this programme will be launched later this year.

Achieving the ambition of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language

Our approach to preserving and promoting the Irish language is driven by recognising the need to improve education, increasing the number of daily Irish speakers, recruiting more Irish speakers to the public service and ensuring services are provided through the language.

The ‘5-Year Action Plan 2018-2022’ cements those ideals. We have ensured a dramatic increase in funding and assistance for Early Years, for childcare, for classroom language assistants and for parents raising their children through Irish.

We are committed to the targets of the ‘20-year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030’ to grow the number of Irish speakers outside education from 83,000 to 250,000; to increase the Gaeltacht’s Irish speaking population by 25%; and to have 2 million people with Irish by 2030.

The Official Languages Bill will demonstrate our focus on putting the language at the centre of government as we strive to ensure that 20% of new public service recruits can and will provide those services in Irish.

We place particular importance on language planning at community level, and it is central to the new definition of the Gaeltacht. It is a unique policy internationally and we will continue to drive it. Our targets have already been surpassed and now we are aiming for 15 plans to be approved across the Gaeltacht regions by the end of 2018.

We also will enable opportunities for areas outside the existing Gaeltacht to achieve statutory recognition as Irish Language Networks or as Gaeltacht Service Towns.

We recognise the need to provide public services to Irish speakers, in particular for the 26 Gaeltacht planning areas, but also the 16 Service Towns and the three Irish Language Networks in Clondalkin, Ennis and Loughrea. We are committed to developing a new Irish Language Centre in Dublin as a flagship focal point for the language.

The traditional Irish language education policy has not been a success.  New approaches are now being adopted and must be encouraged by all stakeholders.  We will implement the first ever Gaeltacht education strategy, adopting the total immersion approach within Gaelscoileanna and Naonraí.

Innovations within Irish language education need to be advanced. The new curriculum for Junior Cycle emphasises spoken Irish within the classroom, developing projects that engage pupils and build communities of language use within the school and the wider community.

New Irish-medium schools and streams will be provided where communities outside the Gaeltacht demonstrate that there is a demand.

We will test the potential for virtual classrooms to allow for more subjects to be taught through Irish at senior cycle in the Gaeltacht. We will broaden the footprint of innovative and high-tech projects, combining Irish medium education and technology in schools and youth centres in all regions. Our aim is for it to develop into the leading creative technology network for youth development through Irish, with a focus on creating digital media and STEM material.

Recognising the importance of our national and built heritage

Our natural and built heritage is central to our sense of identity, of place and of Irishness. We must protect it in the first instance and pass it onto future generations. We must explain it so that it can be properly understood and enjoyed, and we must utilise it for tourism and other industries to improve the livelihoods of citizens, particularly in our rural economy. Fine Gael’s approach to heritage is based on those principles and for this reason we will develop a new, whole-of-government heritage policy.

This new heritage policy will complement the significant investment in our national heritage over the next decade that Fine Gael has prioritised in ‘Project Ireland 2040’. In line with ‘Project Ireland 2040’ we will adopt and implement a masterplan for the development of our National Parks and National Reserves. We will also build on successful community-led programmes such as the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Structures at Risk Fund which provide grant aid to protect and maintain important historic buildings in our local communities throughout the country. In addition, we will work to progress flagship national projects such as the restoration of the Ulster Canal.

We will ensure that funding is provided to protect and enhance Ireland’s heritage estate of 780 monuments and sites. We will introduce a programme of site accessibility works, both in terms of physical access but also explanation, to allow greater appreciation of our national heritage.

Encouraging greater experience and understanding of our heritage

We will encourage new partnerships between Ireland’s heritage and tourism bodies to make sure that Ireland’s potential as an international heritage tourism destination is explored in a sustainable way. Ireland’s National Parks and Nature Reserves will play a key role in this, increasing Ireland’s attractiveness for this growing national and international market and aiding rural social and economic development.

Programmes that encourage greater understanding and appreciation of Ireland’s built and natural heritage will also be encouraged and developed. Popular schemes such as the Heritage in Schools programme and the new Junior Rangers programme, which engages junior schools students directly with Conservation Rangers, will be funded to ensure participation is maximised.

We will investigate the practicalities and merits of establishing an offshore maritime area as Ireland’s seventh national park. This would form part of the expanded Marine Protected Areas, and allow for a greater engagement and learning experience for Irish people of their maritime environment.

Provide funding for national, regional and local sporting facilities

There is a need for regular and predictable funding streams for sport at a local, regional, and national level. There is also a need for the creation of a funding stream for national sporting organisations to bid for state assistance for national sporting infrastructure.

In terms of capital funding, Fine Gael has ensured that over the next decade there will be €300 million available for sports. This includes continuation of the Sports Capital Programme, which Fine Gael restarted, and which is essential to sports clubs across the country. ‘Project Ireland 2040’ also includes funding for a Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund which is for sports capital projects that require funding larger than the Sports Capital Scheme.

The role of the education system in enabling lifelong physical activity

The establishment of PE as an examinable subject for the Leaving Certificate demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that PE is a core part of our children’s education.

Therefore, ‘Project Ireland 2040’ commits to a PE build and modernisation programme so that students in all post-primary schools have access to appropriate facilities for PE. Enhanced and modernised PE facilities will also provide extra amenities for local communities.

Placing an emphasis on improving sporting activity across all sectors of society

The health benefits of lifelong sporting activity are obvious. Some sporting activities are particularly suitable for participation across a person’s lifespan such as swimming, cycling and running. A strong emphasis needs to be placed on these activities from an early age, particularly through PE, so that people have the foundation skills to continue with them throughout their lives. For these three sports in particular, schemes to help older people partaking in such sporting activity will be developed and enabled by central and local government (e.g. Parkruns).

Research has consistently shown that women are less likely than men to continue sport through their teenage years and into adulthood. There will be a major focus on encouraging female sports participation at all ages. We are committed to eliminating the gap between male and female sporting participation over the next decade.

For a wide variety of factors, the take-up and participation in sport is lower for those who have a disability. Increasing participation levels by people with disabilities is especially important. Research as to the most appropriate measures to take is needed and will be prioritised to enable the right interventions to be made to boost participation levels.

Enabling high-level sporting performance

Increased investment in high performance sports should be focused on improving Ireland’s relative performance in elite competitions, in particular the Olympics and Paralympics. Our performances should be benchmarked against leading peer nations i.e. New Zealand and Denmark. Funding is being moved from an annual funding cycle to a multi-annual basis so that elite athletes have higher degrees of greater planning certainty. Furthermore, there will need to be a greater emphasis on identifying sports to focus elite investment where we have the greatest opportunity for success.