Minister wants to keep film board as independent body


MINISTER FOR the Arts Martin Cullen has said the Irish Film Board should be retained as an independent body, despite the McCarthy report recommendation that it merge with Enterprise Ireland.

Mr Cullen agreed with Labour arts spokeswoman Mary Upton that a merger would mean the film board “will be gobbled up and become a non-entity. It will have no defined or separate role, which is very important for the film industry”. She added that it earned net profit of €303 million last year, even allowing for tax breaks.

The Minister said there was a “strong rationale for the retention of the Irish Film Board because it is delivering jobs and is a positive international marketing message for this country”.

Some 6,000 people are employed in the industry and “this success guides me in stating that the board should be retained as it is and with current functions. It is achieving the goals we set out for it.”

Mr Cullen, who at the business forum in Farmleigh last weekend, staunchly defended his department, told the Dáil yesterday, “the report prepared by Colm McCarthy is excellent and he has looked across all departments before presenting a menu.

“Nobody would anticipate that every single line written by him would be taken verbatim and implemented, but he has provided important food for thought. I do not want to put this in a space of I, as Minister, being for or against it. A rationale must be applied.”

Fine Gael arts spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell said it was inappropriate to put the film board into a department. Ms Mitchell warned, however, that the board needed to become competitive and to “show leadership”.

She suggested the Minister ask whether the board needed two offices, one in Dublin and one in Galway.

“Is there a way to ensure that the board will become super-efficient in order that the entire industry might be more competitive when the good times return?”

She warned that the board should not be supporting “uncompetitive practices”. Ireland appeared to be “extremely uncompetitive” in trade pay rates and “it costs more to make films here than it does in any other country”.

The Minister said Ms Mitchell was correct about competitiveness, but a “natural driving down of costs is occurring at present” and there was a “greater understanding and acceptance that in order to continue to sustain ourselves internationally, we must be competitive in all areas”.