'Quantum leap' in funding for the arts


The last five years had seen a quantum leap in the level of Government support for the arts in Ireland, the Dáil was told.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, said that the subvention voted by the Oireachtas for the Arts Council in 1997 was €26.44 million.

"In the current year, the amount is almost €48 million, an increase of about 80 per cent on the 1997 figure." Mr O'Donoghue was introducing the Arts Bill 2002, which, he said, was the product of experience gained with having a Cabinet Minister representing the arts at the Cabinet table.

The Bill, he said, would define the Government's role relating to the development of arts policy.

It would update the structure of the Arts Council and would clarify and rationalise the council's relationship with Government. He said that "the arts" would be defined, for the purposes of the Bill, in a way that continued to refer to constituent art forms, but would be sufficiently flexible to include traditional as well emerging and innovative art forms, and art forms in any language.

The Fine Gael spokesman on the arts, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, called on the Government to tackle the "appalling state of the arts in our education system.

"It is interesting to note the importance that was attached to education in the arts by the previous administration - the proposal to convene a junior committee to examine the role of the arts in education made little headway and eventually fizzled out."

Mr Deenihan claimed that the Bill sought to undermine the independence of the Arts Council, given that the Minister might give a direction in writing to the Arts Council requiring it, in performing its functions, to comply with policy decisions made by the Minister or the Government.

This could include a direction to the council to furnish a plan specifying the strategies or measures that it had proposed to adopt.