Arts being sidelined by new Govt

13 May 2016

Fears expressed by arts practitioners this week, that the arts have been downgraded and sidelined in the new government department configuration, seem to be well founded.

Not only has the arts portfolio been further diluted by cramming more and more responsibilities into the same department, but the Programme for Government published this week is sadly lacking when it comes to concrete proposals as to how the arts and culture can be provided with the supports they need to enable them to flourish and grow.

Phrases like “work to progressively increase funding”, “boost supports”, and “further encourage strong, mutually beneficial links” all contained in the Programme for Government are essentially meaningless. The fact that the arts portfolio does not even warrant its own chapter in the document, speaks volumes about the attitude of the new Government.

Labour is the only party that can be trusted to stand up for the arts, and I will be using every opportunity to raise issues of concern to the sector, in the Oireachtas.

In the run-up to the election, the Labour Party engaged with the arts community to an extent that I don’t believe any other party did. We held a number of arts policy events which were attended by hundreds of musicians, painters, choreographers, writers, producers, curators and managers, across the country.

The views and ideas brought forward by arts practitioners at these meetings were very much taken on board by Labour and were reflected in our manifesto. Among our proposals were:

  • An increase funding for the arts and heritage by €150m, including doubling the funding for the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board.
  • The creation of a new €30m Arts Capital Fund which would operate in a similar manner to the Sports Capital Fund, for the development of new buildings, venues, galleries or exhibition spaces.
  • The creation of a Global Arts Forum for Ireland, a major international event that would provide an unparalleled opportunity to highlight our indigenous talent and map a strong and healthy future for arts and culture at home and abroad.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate organisations like The National Campaign for the Arts for bringing these issues to public attention this week.

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