Where is the arts plan?
Sir, – At Listowel Writers Week on May 31st the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht spoke about the importance of the policy of maintaining a system of one-remove between politicians and decisions about arts funding. It seems curious then that Culture Ireland, which was, as a result of a report commissioned and accepted by government, run as an independent body has now been brought into the Minister’s department from where it will be run directly. I think those of us who have worked with Culture Ireland have a right to ask on what basis this was done. Is there a document, for example, which shows how this move might save money or create efficiency? Is there a document which deals with possible problems in the future, should a minister, from whatever political persuasion, wish to decide what artists represent Ireland abroad and what artists should not?
Since there are 113 national archives in the world and only two of them are merged with a national library, it might also be helpful to see a document which would show how money could be saved by such a merger here – the Canadian merger actually cost 15 million Canadian dollars – or how services would be improved, or how nothing would be damaged. The ethos behind a National Library – the making of books and manuscripts available to scholars - and the function of a National Archives – the preservation of documents emanating from government departments – seem quite distant from each other.
As a novelist, I plan what I do. I would not dream of starting a novel without a blueprint, and I put a great deal of thought into that. Would it be too much to ask the Minister, or indeed his civil servants, to produce a document which would explain the reasons for merging some cultural institutions, abolishing boards, and bringing them and Culture Ireland directly under the Minister’s and the civil servants’ own control? - Yours, etc,