Catherine Martin’s portfolio makes sense
Sir, – The name of the new department may indeed be too long (“How can you be Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht?”, Opinion & Analysis, July 10th), but for Diarmaid Ferriter to conclude that “this makes the decision to concoct such a flabby department all the more ridiculous” suggests an incomplete analysis of the historical interactions of the remits covered, as well as international precedent.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK, which was established by Tony Blair in 1997 and includes tourism, has had virtually the same full remit as the new Irish department for over 20 years.
In that time, the creative industries in the UK have prospered and that department helped organise the very successful London Olympics in 2012.
Most recently, it announced a package of over £1.5 billion for the arts and culture sector in the UK, with £33 million going to Northern Ireland.
The last time Arts, Culture, Media (then Broadcasting) and the Gaeltacht were under the same roof was from 1993 to 2002. Then-minister Michael D Higgins was, as a result, able to coordinate hugely successful reforms across culture and broadcasting, including establishing the independent production unit in RTÉ, the re-establishment of the Irish Film Board (now Screen Ireland), reform of the film tax incentive (now section 481) and the establishment of Telefís na Gaeilge (now TG4). All this became less possible after 2002 when “Broadcasting” joined the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
Meanwhile the rest of the Department of Culture became “Arts, Sport and Tourism” in 2002, then “Tourism, Culture and Sport” in 2010, and “Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht” in 2011. “Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht” finally came in 2017, and during all that period, Ministers struggled for attention and relevance at the Cabinet table.
At least now that all the old remits are swept up into one new and strong department, we can look forward to a renewed vitality for the arts and creative industries, as well as in sport and tourism in Ireland. – Yours, etc,