Government adopts new five-year plan in full

 

The Arts Council's new plan for the next five years has been adopted by Government, it was announced yesterday.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Ms de Valera, went to the Arts Council's offices yesterday directly from a Cabinet meeting.

She announced the Government's intention to implement the plan in full.

This will mean a rise in funding to the Arts Council from €47,862,500 this year to €79,865,000 in 2006.

The council made clear that the plan could not be implemented if its chronic staff shortage was not addressed.

The Minister yesterday announced that she had got agreement for a 30 per cent increase in staff numbers at the council.

She broke this down into "six posts at senior clerical level and a number of posts at a more senior level".

She articulated the main principles of the plan as these: the enhancement of career possibilities in the arts; the broadening of participation in the arts; the building of leadership in the sector and the building of audiences for the arts; increasing the international impact and success of Irish arts; and working with others to bring the arts closer to local communities.

She also welcomed the transformation of the council into a "development agency" rather than just a grant-giving body.

The good working relationship which exists between the Minister and the director of the council, Ms Patricia Quinn, was obvious at the press conference and confirmed by the Minister's comment: "Every time I have set foot in this building I have had nothing but a feeling of welcome and friendship."

She said it was as a result of this co-operation that such progress had been made.

Ms Quinn described herself as delighted after the launch: "I'm trying to avoid throwing my hands in the air."

The sanctioning of the 30 per cent staff increase at the council was still quite fresh news to her, and she said its implications would have to be worked out with the Department.

"I have always said it's structure, not number of bodies, which matters to us," she said.

The strict Civil Service grading system had made it difficult to run the council, because "the Arts Council is an expert body and the cost of expertise is what we have to pay".