Arts and culture: a largely untapped resource

Government commitment and specific development targets essential

The Government recently published the first national arts policy, Culture 2025. The framework document is partly the result of extensive consultations with arts organisations.To anyone not directly working in the sector, it probably contains little of interest. Specific targets and deadlines are notable by their absence and it is filled with the sort of arts-administration jargon the culture sector is often guilty of.

However, the newly rebranded Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs stands by the document's philosophical tone. In the next six months, it says, an implementation plan will be devised containing specific development targets. In the meantime, however, arts journalists in today's Irish Times suggest initiatives that can be undertaken immediately. Few of their ideas are novel. Most have long been advocated by a sector that is happy to get effective leadership and direction.

The Easter Rising centenary celebrations provide a postive example of what can be achieved. They were handled adroitly and ambitiously – a rare, enjoyable triumph for government and governed. Their success was largely down to greater cooperation between local and national government, arts organisations and grass-roots communities. They also made the most coherent and comprehensive case yet for the importance of the arts and the need for a standalone Department of Arts to foster them. For the sector to develop in a sustainable way, it needs strong government policy and specific targets with clear aims. A department with both adequate resources and appropriate recognition at the Cabinet table is essential.

The suggestions made in Weekend Review today are just a few of many. The sector has a myriad of its own. The policy document suggests it is being listened to. But real strategies must be implemented for our creative sector to become a thriving, sustainable and more significant part of the economy – and truly central to our national identity. We have ceded sovereignty over many national assets; culture remains entirely within our own control, and almost entirely untapped.