Budget 2017: Arts groups welcome increase in funding

Humphreys announces boost to range of bodies including €5m for Arts Council

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys: increases in funding for a range of arts and heritage bodies have been broadly welcomed, but the National Campaign for the Arts say Ireland’s expenditure on arts and culture is still the lowest in the EU. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys: increases in funding for a range of arts and heritage bodies have been broadly welcomed, but the National Campaign for the Arts say Ireland’s expenditure on arts and culture is still the lowest in the EU. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

 

There has been a broad welcome from cultural organisations for provisions announced by the Minister for Arts, Heather Humphreys, including increases in funding for a range of arts and heritage bodies. An additional €5 million has been provided for the Arts Council.

While the overall budget for arts was down by 16 per cent, Ms Humphreys said this was due to one-off capital funding in 2016 for Easter Rising-related projects such as the GPO visitor centre. Overall, she said, funding was up by €18 million and was being increased across all the main agencies and cultural institutions.

The Arts Council chair, Sheila Pratschke, said the increase of 8 per cent in the council’s budget was a “major vote of confidence” in it.

“It also recognises the important contribution that the arts make to the lives of people across Ireland. We particularly welcome the hard work and commitment demonstrated by Heather Humphreys, in securing this increase in funding for the arts in a very competitive budget process,” she said.

The Irish Film Board (IFB) received a €2 million increase, bringing its annual budget to more than €16 million.

Earlier this year, the board had called for a restoration of its funding to 2008 levels of €20 million, which it argued was critical to building on the recent award-winning success of several Irish films.

“At our current reduced budget levels, the IFB has invested in projects which have won major international acclaim, connected with Irish audiences and generated €150 million at the global box office over the last 18 months,” said IFB chairwoman Dr Annie Doona.

“We welcome today’s budget increase and remain ambitious in our vision and future goals for the sector.”

Barbara Galavan of the industry organisation Screen Producers Ireland also welcomed the budget as “ a very welcome step in the right direction”.

The Minister announced €2 million to allow for the opening of the newly restored wings at the National Gallery and the opening of Killarney House, an additional €1 million for the Heritage Council, and funding of €5 million for implementation of the Culture 2025/Ireland 2016 Legacy Programme.

The National Campaign for the Arts, which lobbies for increased State investment in culture, welcomed what it described as a “modest uplift” in allocations for cultural agencies and institutions but said the 1916 commemorations funding should have been fully retained for ongoing investment in arts, film, culture and heritage.

“There is strong disappointment coming from members who expected a significant increase from Budget 2017, in order to make extraordinary art happen for the citizens of Ireland,” said the campaign’s chairwoman, Jo Mangan. “At 0.1 per cent of GDP, Ireland’s expenditure on arts and culture is at the bottom of the list of EU countries compared with an average of 0.6 per cent, surely something no country can condone.” Ms Humphreys, who contests the accuracy of that comparison, said that further work would be done on assessing the real level of State support for culture as part of her department’s Culture 2025 strategy.