On the connection between the Arts Council and the Department, who has responsibility for the
actual State strategy for the Arts? Is there such a strategy actually in place? Is there is, does it
contain a specific inclusion policy which indicates that certain things must happen for people with
disabilities, those on lower incomes, those from the regions, etc.?
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Home > Debates > Committees > 2012
Utilising the Arts to Joint Committee on the Environment,
Combat Disadvantage: Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Discussion (Resumed) 5
Page of 5
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Vice Chairman: We are now in public session. We will begin our discussion on
utilising the arts to combat disadvantage among the young, the old and socially disadvantaged
and to encourage their greater integration and social inclusion in local communities.
I welcome Ms Mary Nash, principal officer, and an tUasal Seán Ó Móráin, higher executive
officer, from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Ms Rita McNulty,
assistant secretary, community division, and Mr. Donal Enright, principal officer, local
government policy and motor tax, from the Department of the Environment, Community and
Local Government. I thank them for attending this meeting.
I draw attention to the position on privilege. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation
Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they give to
the committee. However, if directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a
particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified
privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected
with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the
parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make
charges against a person or an entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it
identifiable. I advise witnesses that the opening statements which they submitted to the
committee will be published on the committee’s website following this meeting. Members
are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not
comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, by
name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I propose to take the witnesses in the following order, the officials from the Department of
the Environment, Community and Local Government to be followed by the officials from the
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Is this agreed? Agreed.
This is our final public session in our consideration of this topic. We started in January and
have met a wide range of stakeholders in the arts, local authorities, theatre groups, music
groups, and organisations dealing with the disadvantaged. It is appropriate that today we meet
officials from the two Department that oversee and fund this sector.
In discussing this issue with members today, I remind the witnesses that the role of the joint
committee is to consider how public representatives, Departments, agencies and local
authorities can assist local groups in their efforts. Our primary objective is to identify how
this work can be done better, more effectively and efficiently. We want to identify whether
we are doing all we can in the most cost-effective and efficient manner, whether we are
reaching the people most in need, and if we are adding value to local community involvement
and participation. I call Ms Rita McNulty to address the committee.
Mr. Donal Enright: Our presentation is in two parts. With the permission of the committee, I
will start with the role of local authorities.
I thank the Vice Chairman and members for the opportunity to address the committee this
afternoon. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
welcomes the work of local authorities in supporting and promoting the arts, including
community arts. We recognise the benefits that can flow from integrating the arts into other
areas within their remit, including helping to address disadvantage and social exclusion. The
contribution of local authorities to the arts takes many forms, from the provision of public
sculpture, employment of arts officers, provision of and support for arts centres, municipal
galleries and collections to support for local arts festivals and providing funding to local arts
groups and organisations utilising the arts to combat disadvantage in local communities. The
testimony to the committee of local authorities, community arts groups and other arts
organisations in previous sessions shows a striking breadth of local authority involvement in
the arts. There are many fine local authorities arts strategies and programmes and it is clear
they take their responsibility to promote the arts and artists in their local communities
seriously. It is clear also they have developed synergies to integrate the arts into their areas of
responsibility in regard to addressing disadvantage and taking a holistic view of the arts and
what they can contribute to society. We recognise, of course, the limitations of finance and
resources in the current climate. It is heartening to see local authorities are maintaining their
front-line commitment to the arts. Undoubtedly, they are a key partner in supporting and
delivering the arts in their communities and implementing national arts policy at local level.
The role of local authorities in the arts is undertaken in the context of overall arts policy as
developed by our colleagues in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In
partnership with the Arts Council, it provides the dedicated funding to local authorities for
the arts. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is
supportive of that Department’s primacy in setting, monitoring and reporting on arts policy.
We do not have a dedicated funding stream in respect of the arts but provide substantial
funding to local authorities via a general purpose grant which is not constrained by specific
Local authorities support the arts through their own resources, deploying the general purposes
grant as they consider appropriate, and drawing on support from the Arts Council and other
avenues which they source themselves. Local authorities are best placed, with their budgets
set by the elected members, to identify and respond to the needs of their communities and to
identify the contribution that their support for the arts will make to enrich the lives of
citizens. They also know the levels and causes of disadvantage within their communities and,
through the arts officers working with colleagues in city and county councils, can ensure the
arts can make a contribution to addressing these disadvantages.
Local authorities are multi-functional agencies, delivering at local level the policies and
programmes set by many Departments. The responsible parent Department and its agencies
engage with the local government sector in so far as their substantive policy area is
concerned. The responsibilities of the Department of Environment, Community and Local
Government in regard to local authorities are twofold. It ensures the local government system
is well structured and fit for purpose, including delivery of services and programmes on
behalf of other Departments and oversees the delivery of services and programmes which we
have responsibility for, such as housing, planning and community affairs.
We work with other Departments and agencies as necessary where their programmes are
delivered by local government, recognising their lead role in their policy areas. Indeed, as the
committee heard last week, we have met the Arts Council more than once to understand its
policy perspective and explore what the local government system can do to support its work.
This ties in with our responsibility to ensure the local government system is fit for purpose
across its full range of responsibilities.
The Department is also conscious that local government is a distinct and independent tier of
government. Local authorities provide a forum for democratic representation within local
communities and are the civic leaders for their communities. Subject to legislation set by the
Oireachtas, they have responsibility for promoting the interests of the community, local
service delivery and regulating and managing a wide range of matters in respect of their
communities. Under the Local Government Act 2001, local authorities have considerable
discretion to engage in the activities they consider necessary or desirable to promote the
interests of the local community. The Act specifically mentions artistic, linguistic and cultural
activities in this regard.
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government engages on an
ongoing basis with local authorities to ensure they can discharge their responsibilities
effectively and efficiently. We will continue to do that and will continue to support the other
arms of central government and its agencies in its delivery of its policy responsibilities
through local authorities. In regard to the arts, local authorities have demonstrated a strong
commitment to delivery in creative and integrated ways, and we will be supportive of their
continued engagement as arts policy is developed and delivered through the local government
system by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Arts Council.
Ms Rita McNulty: I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it. I will address the
specific community divisions responsibilities in the Department.
A key principle underlying the Department’s activities is enabling communities to identify
and address social and economic needs and problems in their areas. There is a particular
focus on supporting communities that are vulnerable, disadvantaged or under threat, and an
adherence to the values of local participation. The Department, through its community
division, is actively engaged with a range of local development companies and other
community-based groups, as well as local authorities, in the provision of supports and
funding for a range of community, rural development and social inclusion interventions.
In particular, the Department funds and oversees the delivery of the local and community
development programme, LCDP, through 51 local development companies, LDCs. There are
many examples of joint community arts projects targeting the disadvantaged involving LDCs,
local authorities, local groups and other State bodies. One example is that of funding under
the LCDP to the Dublin Institute of Technology for its community links programme which
supports the Ballymun music programme. This engages young people from disadvantaged
backgrounds with an exciting and accessible music programme. It fosters their self-esteem,
provides a positive social environment and opens the door to future education and careers.
Building on the model of the Ballymun music programme, the Department has recently
agreed in principle to provide additional funding to develop a model of music appreciation
and practice for disadvantaged children from the three Cork City RAPID areas. This is being
done in conjunction with the Cork Academy of Music and is one of many examples of how
the local development model works through joint partnerships involving a range of relevant
stakeholders and funders.
The Department’s RAPID Programme aims to improve the quality of life and the opportunity
available to residents of the most disadvantaged communities in Irish cities and towns. It now
includes 51 areas. It is another example of funding by the Department that includes initiatives
that use the arts to address social exclusion in communities. Area implementation teams bring
together local State agency personnel, the LDC, the residents, the local drugs task force and
others to develop plans in each area. RAPID co-ordinators are employed by the local
authorities and are instrumental in organising and assisting the work of the implementation
Sligo provides a good example of RAPID using the promotion of the arts to increase the
participation of disadvantaged groups such as youth, persons with a disability and
unemployed adults. Murals on Treacy Avenue and the Mail Coach Road playground were
painted by artists who were unemployed and who have exceptional talent. The Treacy
Avenue mural used urban graffiti style to appeal to the youth of the area. It prevents graffiti
on a long stretch of wall next to the railway and generally improves the appearance of the
area. The mural at the Mail Coach Road playground was funded under the PEACE
programme and was the finishing touch to the RAPID funded playground at the community
In respect of rural areas, I should highlight the LEADER elements of the rural development
programme for which this Department has responsibility. It continues to support a diverse
range of community arts initiatives through the 35 local LEADER companies. From the
Department’s perspective, initiatives such as those outlined above are relevant to the
community and local development policies and social inclusion priorities of the various
programmes supported through the Department’s community division. The Department
would not be in a position to comment on the arts or community arts dimensions of such
initiatives as they fall outside our policy remit.
From the citizen’s point of view, it makes sense that all State and voluntary services are
delivered in a co-ordinated and integrated fashion, because this is the way in which people
live their lives. Since 2000, local authorities, through the city and county development
boards, CDBs, have lead and facilitated the integration of certain services at local level. The
CDBs have overseen the delivery of integrated ten year strategies for economic, social and
cultural development. The future role of the CDBs is under consideration in the context of
significant local government reform. The co-ordination they provide across different statutory
bodies and other stakeholders will, however, be sustained in any new arrangements.
I should also point out that when implementing actions under the programmes I referred to,
local development companies are required to comply with the national and regional policies
that apply, whether that is in the area of social inclusion, enterprise, tourism or, in this case,
the arts. This is important to ensure coherence across all the different actions that take place
in our communities.
The targeting of resources in the local development sphere will continue in the future to place
greater emphasis on tracking outcomes and impact, in order that effectiveness and value for
money can be more readily demonstrated. In this, and indeed other contexts, the Department
would be willing to co-operate, as appropriate, with initiatives which the Department of Arts,
Heritage and the Gaeltacht may undertake, in order to assist with more joined up delivery of
arts and community programmes through local authorities, LDCs and other relevant
Vice Chairman: I thank Mr. Enright and Ms McNulty for their opening statements. I
now invite our colleagues from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to make
their presentations. We will then take questions from members.
Ms Mary Nash: I thank the chairman. My name is Ms Mary Nash and I am accompanied by
my colleague Mr. Seán Ó Móráin. I carry the brief for arts, film and music in the Department,
as well as EU presidency co-ordination. Mr. Seán Ó Móráin will deal with the arts capital
schemes. I thank the committee on behalf of the Department, Mr. Ó Móráin and myself for
the opportunity to address it. Since its formation on 1 June 2011, the Minister for Arts,
Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in conjunction with the Department, has actively engaged in
promoting the benefit of arts and culture to the wider community throughout the country. Our
mandate seeks to promote access to, and participation in, the arts by all sections of Irish
society and to support our national cultural institutions in their work to preserve, protect and
present our heritage and cultural assets.
We sent a brief to the committee a few days ago and that documentation describes what the
Department’s arts division does. It covers a wide area. Instead of going into all of that,
however, I have selected two initiatives in which the committee would be interested, based on
its deliberations to date. The first is the national interactive strategy, published last year, and
the second is Culture Night.
When the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, commenced in the Department, he announced a new
interactive approach in the area of arts, culture and film. The kernel of the new approach was
a proactive consultation process with arts practitioners at local authority level on their
requirements and ideas for their sector. These consultations continue to feed into policy
making for the sector.
The Minister selected one county, Kerry, as a template for all other counties. The
Department, in conjunction with Kerry County Council, developed a template for this process
which is available to all local authorities, should they wish to use it. The output of the
strategy was two-fold. One part involved direct interaction with arts practitioners by the
Department and the local authority. This element was as much about the Government
engaging directly with arts practitioners at local level as an attempt at a coherent joined-up
approach to the services delivered by the Arts Act 2003 at local government level.
In general, we found that arts and culture practitioners were somewhat isolated and they
reported they felt they benefited from the consultation process with the Department and the
arts office, as well as from interaction with each other. The vast majority of the proposals
submitted by arts practitioners, curiously, were not for funding but for other types of
supports. In some cases, the supports they sought were already available but they did not
know about them.
The other part of the output of the strategy is an enumeration which is contained in the table
at the end of the brief provided to committee members. It shows the funding to the arts in
Kerry in 2010 from all sources for capital and current funding. I suggest members
concentrate on current funding to gain a more balanced picture of the funding environment as
capital funding tends to be lumpy and unrepresentative. The figures attempt to capture
benefits-in-kind such as the waiving of rates for arts by local authorities. Arts organisations
do not have to pay rates but local authorities still work out how much they should have paid,
and it is a benefit-in-kind. In one or two cases, there is also the issue of rent foregone.
The list provided to committee members gives totals of the grants made, all of which are
listed on the Kerry County Council website. The committee will also receive figures from the
Arts Council but these only refer to the grants made and do not list salaries or the cost of
running an arts office. The strategy also lists the art works that are held in public spaces,
many of those in Kerry being Pauline Bewick’s works in the library in Killorglin, and it also
lists the infrastructure, such as theatres and public spaces available to the arts.
As the committee will be aware, the Department funds most of the national cultural
institutions, including the National Gallery, the National Museum, the Natural History
Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Gallery in Cork. Entry to these
institutions is free. In general, however, the visitors to these institutions are not drawn from
the socially or economically disadvantaged. This is a crucial piece of information in that,
clearly, barriers exist for the socially disadvantaged but they are not economic barriers since
entry is free. Of course, it can also be argued a significant proportion of the population which
is not disadvantaged do not visit arts and culture facilities.
This leads me on to second initiative I want to highlight. Culture Night started in 2006 and
has grown to be a great success. The designation of one night allows an almost universal
focus to fall on arts and culture. It re-forms the public imagination into a captive audience for
one night each year, compliments of the print and broadcast media. The Government
initiative concentrates its efforts on encouraging key artistic and cultural organisations to
participate in towns and cities and to extend their opening hours until 11 p.m. to provide the
public with increased access.
The 2011 event was the largest to date, with 30 towns, cities and counties across Ireland
taking part. Private commercial art and culture organisations have become involved. Last
year we had commercial art galleries reporting an increase in sales following their
participation in Culture Night. On Culture Night people arrive who have never visited arts
and culture spaces and some of them come back. I am sure most committee members have
been involved in Culture Night events over the past six years and I hope they will agree there
is a shared sense of enjoyment of the evening. I believe the single targeted focus that is made
possible on Culture Night, aligned to the simplicity of the concept and the title of the
initiative, has the potential to break through many of the barriers and preconceptions
surrounding arts and culture. The 2012 event will be on Friday, 21 September.
The event called Music Day - Love Live Music takes a similar approach but it is a more
recent initiative which is still developing. This year the event falls on 21 June, which is also
international music day. The focus on this day is live music and people are encouraged to
either perform themselves or attend a live music event.
I would also like to refer to Culturefox, which I hope all members have on their apps. If not,
they should come to me afterwards and I can explain how to access it. It is free to all arts and
culture event organisers, as well as users. It demonstrates the use of social media and
technology to bring the arts to all levels of society. Public funding of the arts and culture has
been substantially reduced over the past few years. With less money, there is added necessity
to seek initiatives that assist all arts and culture practitioners. It is a project that exploits the
productivity that can be extracted from the rapidly changing technological environment.
I should also mention that a number of the cultural institutions I referred to earlier continue to
undertake programmes which seek to reduce barriers to access for social disadvantage. The
National Museum has an interesting initiative with an inner city school, Larkin Community
College, known as Moving Statues and related to the monuments and statues on O’Connell
Street. I know there are other issues which have arisen at committee but I will conclude at
this point and allow the committee to direct the discussion.
Vice Chairman: Thank you. Does Mr. Ó Móráin wish to add to that?
Mr. Seán Ó Móráin: I have nothing to add at this point.
Vice Chairman: In that case, we will move to questions. I call Deputy McLellan.
Deputy Sandra McLellan: I welcome the witnesses and thank them for their very
informative presentations. Apart from funding, what are the main obstacles for the
Departments? Culture Night is very positive and has been hugely successful. There was a
commitment in the programme for Government to extend it to two nights. Have the witnesses
any thoughts on that or have any decisions been made? Is there anything else like Culturefox
to advertise events since funding is limited? How does the Department measure its success?
Another matter relating to the local authorities was brought to my attention some time ago.
The do not all have dedicated arts officers. Sometimes people who do not know a great deal
about the arts or who have not had many dealings in the area often find it difficult to get
information. What are the Department’s plans to address this?
Vice Chairman: Do you wish to respond to those questions first?
Ms Mary Nash: I will start with culture night. The programme for Government aims to have
two culture nights. However, when we examined the matter we decided instead to have a
culture night in the autumn and an international day of Irish culture. We decided to use the St.
Patrick’s day festivities to get a little extra bounce. We suggested that it was not only culture
day in Ireland but an international day of Irish culture. It is an extension of Culture Ireland.
One of my colleagues, Eugene Downes, works with Culture Ireland, which funds people to
go abroad. I hope we will secure two things, including the international culture day around St.
Patrick’s day. They are now considering extending this to one week rather than one day of
Culturefox was launched on 1 June last year and is not yet one year old. We are pushing and
trying to get everyone on Culturefox because the more people use it, the more successful it
will be. The use of Culturefox is tied to funding from the Department and the Arts Council.
Every letter or grant that goes out has included a stipulation that one must go on Culturefox
and we check this.
There are other initiatives in this area. We have developed a set of training materials for
social media. The idea came from Senator Mac Conghail. The Abbey Theatre uses Facebook
significantly. We are training arts organisations in the digital marketing training initiative - a
terrible mouthful. This is available to all arts and cultural organisations for a nominal sum,
less than €100. They are trained in how to use social media, including Twitter and Facebook
to attract people. I am told to understand all of this since younger people use Facebook.
Many smaller arts organisations cannot afford ticketing systems. Fáilte Ireland has an
arrangement with an organisation called Ticketsolve. Organisations which are only open for
two weeks of a given year because they run festivals or organisations which only hold a small
number of events can clip themselves to Ticketsolve. It sells their tickets and keeps 6% of the
takings. It includes all credit card charges and it represents a good deal. Let us suppose one
goes to a website and one buys a ticket costing €40. Sometimes one must pay an extra €5 for
completing the transaction on-line. There is nothing like that with Ticketsolve. This makes it
The main obstacles aside from funding relate to resources. There are few people working in
the arts division of the Department but there are so many things we could do. It is difficult.
Deputy McLellan asked how we measure the success of Culturefox. The Arts Council records
hits and we can provide that information to the committee. She also asked about local
authority arts officers. All local authorities have an arts officer although one is on maternity
leave and I understand the officer in Roscommon has left but his role is being carried by the
director of services there. Deputy McLellan asked another question.
Deputy Sandra McLellan: It was about sourcing information. Sometimes when one
goes to a counter, the person with whom one is dealing may not have the full knowledge or
resources available. Is there is some way to overcome that problem?
Ms Mary Nash: That is a major obstacle. However, if a person makes it as far as the
institution or counter, he has gone a good deal of the way. We need to get the message out. I
believe there are many arts events that people would go to if they knew what they were about.
An organisation called Arts Audiences does work on behalf of the Arts Council and the
Department. I have asked those involved what makes people attend a given event and why
people go to this or that. The organisation carried out some initial research and found that
people go if a link exists or if there is something to which they can clip. Little Women or a
show based on a Louisa May Alcott story was on in the Gaiety recently. People will go if
they know a book, if they know the writer or they might go to a concert if they have heard a
given song. There must be some link. This makes it difficult for experimental work but this is
what we need to be doing to keep the arts vibrant and modern.
Senator Fiach Mac Conghail: Before I welcome the officials I wish to put on record
that as director of the Abbey Theatre I receive funding from the Arts Council, which is
funded, in turn, by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Abbey Theatre
also receives funding from the Department. There is no conflict of interest but I had better
state as much out front in case people require clarification. I welcome Ms Rita McNulty and
Mr. Donal Enright. The Department has circulated a document. Will the officials talk us
through it? If I understand the matter correctly, a substantial amount of funding comes from
the Department of the Environment, Culture and Local Government. Approximately €53
million goes on the operation of the arts programme. I seek some clarification on the
narrative behind that.
I apologise for leaving in the middle of the meeting but I had to attend a vote. The officials
should note that it is no evidence of disrespect. The presentation is clear in suggesting that
there is no dedicated funding of the arts. In other words, funding is given to the local
authorities and so on. However, the fact that the Department has delivered and enumerated on
certain funding suggests there is a stated interest in how it spends its money, especially in
terms of the arts programme.
The fact that there is no dedicated policy unit within in the Department of the Environment,
Culture and Local Government to examine aspects of the arts, including value for money or
policy provision, has arisen in recent weeks. What is the Department’s view? Should there be
such a unit or is there a need for it? Should there be dedicated expertise within the
Department of the Environment, Culture and Local Government? If the Department’s view is
that there is no need, is there some formal link between the Department of the Environment,
Community and Local Government and the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht or
the Arts Council, the relevant State agency? We are trying to paint a picture. Several
Departments, not only the two represented here today, provide funding for the arts.
Sometimes they do so indirectly because the work of the arts community might have an
impact on the remit of a given Department. Those are my questions for Ms McNulty and Mr.
I have more questions for Ms Nash and Mr. Ó Móráin. Without in any way compromising
what Ms Nash has stated, she indicated that there is a good deal more she wishes to do but
cannot. Let us park the money. The Department will be pleased to hear that this conversation
will be not be about looking for more money. My experience from the national campaign for
the arts and so on is that arts organisations try to support what we call the Estimates process.
In terms of the Department dealing with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
and the Department of Finance regarding either increased funding for the arts or maintaining
levels of funding, what else could the arts organisations do to support that? I would imagine
part of the problem is the lack of real data. There is both longitudinal and biannual research
being done by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom which is
examining levels of participation, attendances and other measurements of quality. Are there
any discussions going on in the Department on how we might obtain and examine benchmark
data because there is a serious gap in that regard? I would like to hear the views of the
witnesses on that.
My second question is on the way the Department’s policy unit works. Does it work with the
Arts Council or is there a separate discussion with the Arts Council? I ask that by way of
allowing other Deputies and Senators to get a sense of the relationship between the
Department and the Arts Council. I am not advocating the need for any further reports but I
am advocating for the data. I want to make that distinction. I am not interested in seeing
another report being left on a shelf but I am interested in baseline data in particular.
The final question is on the points of alignment document set up by statutory instrument
through the Minister establishing a sub-committee of the Arts Council to examine the way the
education system works. What is the status in that regard? What is the Department’s
relationship with the Department of Education and Skills? Is there a formal relationship in
that regard? Also, is there a formal relationship between the Department of Arts, Heritage and
the Gaeltacht and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government?
Vice Chairman: I call Deputy Troy. We will hear from the other two speakers in the
Deputy Robert Troy: I was listening to the contributions on the monitor in my office. I
was waiting for a call and had to return to my office. Apologies for that.
A witness from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
spoke about the RAPID programme and the invaluable work it is doing in disadvantaged
areas the length and breadth of the country. The experience in my constituency is that the
projects that were due to progress under the RAPID programme were suspended in recent
months. The witness might clarify when the various local authorities will be able to spend the
money that had been earmarked under the RAPID programme.
Regarding Culture Night, which was initiated in 2006, I agree it has been a huge success. The
programme for Government refers to having Culture Night on two occasions in the future. I
would be concerned, and I have expressed this concern during questions to the Minister also,
that the second Culture Night would be lumped in, so to speak, with St. Patrick’s Day. As
that is a valuable day for this country to market itself the world over I would have expected
the second Culture Night mentioned in the programme for Government would be held on a
day separate from St. Patrick’s Day. The witness might not be in a position to comment on
that as it may be a political decision.
Mention was made of the barriers to people visiting arts and culture facilities but that as entry
to a number of those facilities is free it is not an economic barrier. The witness might outline
proposals on how the Department might deal with that problem with a view to encouraging
more people who would not normally visit them to use those facilities. What is being done to
attract such people into those facilities?
The witness also spoke about the digital marketing training that was set up to help venues and
groups throughout the country avail of it. Have many venues or groups availed of that
facility? How many venues would be eligible to avail of it?
I use Culturefox. I attended its launch last year and it is a brilliant initiative and I compliment
those who were involved in bringing that about. In terms of the limited number of people
working in the arts section in the Department, which Senator Mac Conghaill mentioned, the
Department has many ideas but not enough manpower to implement those ideas. The witness
might elaborate on that.
Vice Chairman: There is a good deal of food for thought for the witnesses in those
Mr. Donal Enright: I will take some of Senator MacConghaill’s questions on local
authorities. The document we circulated gives the breakdown and recreation and amenity is
one of eight areas of expenditure by local authorities. A little less than €393 million is spent
on recreation and amenity. Within that the operation of the arts programme accounts for just
short of €53 million.
In terms of expenditure, I have included a note on the face of the document stating that it is
under a number of headings including administration of the arts programme; contributions to
other bodies’ arts programmes; and museum operations, which, together with heritage-
interpretative facilities operations, traditionally may not be counted as arts. Some elements of
it might be so counted but it is included in the local authority expenditure reports and the
annual financial statement, which this information is taken from, for the year 2010. It also
includes festivals and concerts, and service support costs.
The income for local authorities shown on the document includes €3.5 million from the Arts
Council; €7.2 million from their own resources in terms of what they can charge or other
forms of income that arise in the operation of the arts programme; and local authority
transfers of less than €1 million, giving a total income of approximately €11.5 million to
match the expenditure of €53 million the arts gets from the local authority system. The
balance is made up of the moneys our Department gives to local authorities by way of a
general support grant. They have their own income from commercial rates and other sources.
The local authorities have the discretion, within those broad sums of money, to decide how
best to spend their money. They have the expertise at local level. They also have the elected
members’ knowledge and understanding of their communities to help them set their budgets.
The setting of a budget for the local authorities is a reserved function and they decide how
much of their general purpose grant or of commercial rates are to go in the direction of the
arts or in other directions they would wish to spend on. It is clear that the arts is an important
part of what local authorities do for an income of €11.5 million. They are spending over €50
million on the arts and therefore they clearly regard what they do in the arts are as important.
The other part of that document shows the breakdown by individual local authorities-----
Senator Fiach Mac Conghail: Would Mr. Enright mind if I asked some questions for
the purpose of clarification? The €3.5 million figure under State Grants and Subsidies is Arts
Council contributions to-----
Mr. Donal Enright: As I understand it, yes.
Senator Fiach Mac Conghail: From where does the figure of €7 million for the
provision of goods and services come?
Mr. Donal Enright: I do not know the detailed breakdown. There is an issue around
providing a more detailed breakdown at the national level. We simply do not have it. This is
an extract from a much bigger annual financial statement. It does not get into the level of
detail the Senator would want but that is the income the local authorities would generate from
services and goods they provide in that area. I speculate but perhaps they are charges for
events and so on, although it could be more than that. While I suspect the figure is higher
than €7.2 million, I hesitate to be more precise.
The document shows the expenditure by each individual local authority, which amounts
overall to €52.9 million. These are the unaudited returns from the annual financial statements,
as submitted by local authorities to the Department. Although more detail is available at the
level of individual local authorities, this is the information the Department is able to provide
I was asked about dedicated funding from the Department of the Environment, Community
and Local Government. The Department provides funding to local authorities by way of a
general purpose grant. The income for the local government fund comes from motor taxation
and, more recently, household charges and other sources. This is allocated to the local
authorities which are expected, within law, to spend the money they receive on the services
they are due to provide. The Department does not provide dedicated funding or earmark any
slice of the general purpose grant for any particular area, including the arts. Our interest in the
expenditure of the grant is to ensure it is spent in accordance with the law and in an efficient
and effective manner. There is also an audit process. The Department is conscious, however,
that decisions on expenditure are made by the elected members of local authorities, having
regard to the needs of their respective communities.
On the need for a dedicated unit in the Department, our key interest in the local government
system is to ensure it is fit for purpose and has structures and systems in place to discharge its
functions. For our Department, these functions are in the housing, community and planning
areas, whereas the relevant function for the Department of Defence is civil defence. It is
roads for the Department of Transport, education grants for the Department of Education and
Skills and the provision of arts services for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the
Gaeltacht and Arts Council. A range of jobs performed by local government does not have
anything to do with our Department. Our interest is to ensure the systems are in place and
they are fit for purpose. Accordingly, we do not have a dedicated unit dealing with arts
funding, no more than the Department of Defence has a dedicated unit dealing with civil
If our partner Departments need to discuss with us how local authorities are delivering their
functions at local level, we are happy to engage with them. We also engage with the County
and City Managers Association and various interest groups in the local authority system to
ensure we understand what is needed of the local government system. We then endeavour to
ensure these needs are met and the local authority system is fit for purpose. As I made clear,
we will continue to meet with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Arts
Council, as required.
Ms Mary Nash: I will try to describe the make-up of the Department of Arts, Heritage and
the Gaeltacht. I believe most members have met with Mr. Niall Ó Donnchú who heads up the
division. He has responsibility for four areas, one of which is my area. A second area is
Culture Ireland, which has seven staff and we then have the cultural institutions area which
also has seven staff. The commemorations and digitisation-genealogy area has approximately
We have 3.5 staff in the arts and music area which deals with the Arts Council, while another
side of my area deals with film and audiovisual, the Abbey Theatre and EU policy. Four staff
work on that side. I also have responsibility for EU co-ordination for the entire Department,
which includes bogs on the environment side, an issue which I almost dare not mention. That
area has 2.5 staff. All of this involves a considerable amount of work. A member of staff
deals with each of the cultural institutions that receive grants-in-aid, namely, the Arts
Council, Irish Film Board, National Museum of Ireland and National Library of Ireland, all of
which present their cases to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and
overarching issues. We also deal with policy. The arts side of policy includes tax reliefs and
philanthropy, an issue that features in the programme for Government, the local authority arts
strategy and arts in education.
The Points of Alignment report addressed a large number of worthy issues but it was a report
of its time. It was constituted more on the lines of inputs rather than outputs. It stated, for
example, that we would establish a unit with a certain number of staff and specified what the
unit would do. However, it did not specify issues such as the number of children who should
receive music lessons, training in the arts and so forth. This created difficulty when the
Government sought to reduce the numbers of State agencies and the numbers working in the
public service started to decline. The only way we could establish a unit of that nature would
be to close down or cut the services of another unit. That is the reason other units were being
The new Minister is especially convinced of the spirit and aspirations described in the Points
of Alignment report. He has established a bilateral arrangement with the Minister for
Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, at adviser level. The advisers are Mr. Damien Garvey,
the Minister’s new adviser, and Mr. John Walsh, the ministerial adviser in the Department of
Education and Skills. A similar bilateral arrangement operates between me and Mr. Alan
Wall, another official in the Department of Education and Skills. We are approaching the
issue with baby steps.
Having said that, the Points of Alignment report was strongly focused on the formal
education system. This gives rise to curriculum issues, which are highly political. I do not
mean they are party political but that everybody wants to have a say on the curriculum. If one
looks beyond the formal education system, a great deal of good stuff is happening. Mr. John
Kelly of the Irish Chamber Orchestra appeared before the joint committee a number of weeks
ago. He described the Sing Out with Strings programme in Limerick city and members also
heard about the programme “Ballymun Lullaby”. We also have the Music Generation
schemes which everyone refers to as the U2 money. In addition, Comhaltas CeoltóiríÉireann,
an organisation with which one of the Senators is involved, has hundreds of small groups
throughout the country which teach children music, stagecraft and singing. While its work is
all done with an Irish focus, the organisation is still in the arts area and does incredible work.
Many vocational education committees encourage communities to organise a venue, teacher
and class for music training and then pay for the programme. Programmes that are generated
at the level of local communities tend to be more successful in the long run because they
create a sense of ownership and empowerment as the community itself designs the
programme. We will try to dovetail the formal education system with some of these
wonderful initiatives taking place outside the education system. I do not know if that answers
the Senator’s question.
On the Estimates campaign, the National Campaign for the Arts being inside government was
an absolute sea change. The notion of people coming together and organising a campaign to
communicate the importance of their work and to seek to retain what they have was very
beneficial not only for the arts cause itself but also in terms of educating arts practitioners on
the importance of beating their own drum rather than just waiting for people to give them
money. I hope members will forgive me for observing that in Ireland “the arts” is sometimes
used as a pejorative term, as relating to a certain type of sophisticated person. That is not my
view, but there are people who are almost proud to say they have nothing to do with the arts.
A difficulty in this regard is that arts practitioners sometimes use language that is difficult for
outsiders to comprehend. For the socially excluded, in particular, it can be absolutely
forbidding. We must be careful to talk to each other in a language we all understand. There is
an element of educating the public that the arts do not consist merely of difficult plays and
music that nobody really likes. In fact, the arts cover a very broad range and include hip hop,
local drama societies and choirs and so on.
Reference was made earlier to the Per Cent for Art scheme. We in the Department have
received several complaints about projects funded under that scheme which amount to a very
small portion of our overall budget. The argument is that the money should be used instead
for fixing potholes or something else deemed more worthwhile than art. These are not
representative views but we do receive that type of criticism in writing. There is a job of
education to be done in this regard, and it is public representatives who may have to take the
lead. This may not be the response members were expecting, but sometimes it is not easy
when one is too close to a situation to see what the issues may be.
On the question of how to encourage people to visit cultural facilities and institutions, my
preceding comments may provide some of the answer to that. I do not claim to have all of the
answers to a question such as why people walk past the National Gallery, for example, every
day without ever wishing to go in and see the fabulous paintings that are on view there.
Perhaps they are afraid to go in or are concerned they will be challenged. It might be that the
building is too imposing. I do not know for sure. These are questions the committee might
The digital arts marketing training initiative is open to everybody at a minimal cost. In
addition, a similar product is available from Fáilte Ireland which is free. Nobody is excluded
from that effort. I am not sure whether I have covered all the questions.
Vice Chairman: Deputy Robert Troy asked about the RAPID programme.
Ms Rita McNulty: Unfortunately, funding for the RAPID programme had dried up before the
most recently designated areas could benefit from it. However, some funding has since been
allocated to these newly designated RAPID towns, although not specifically for the arts. They
are in the queue, but those commitments that were in the pipeline before the new towns were
designated must be accommodated first. We hope the commitments made in respect of the
new towns will be met in time.
In regard to funding specifically for the arts, a significant portion of activity in the
community arts field in RAPID areas is not funded through the Department via Pobal. In the
case of Sligo, to which I referred earlier, PEACE funding was allocated to a very innovative
community arts project that was a joint initiative between Sligo County Council’s arts office
and RAPID office, in association with the local community and the local development
company. The RAPID programme will never go back to what it was because there is not the
same level of funding that was available in previous years for leverage across different
Departments. However, there are opportunities by way of the rural development programme,
where there is funding available through the Leader companies under the rural heritage and
conservation measure or the village renewal measure. These measures offer a source of
funding for the arts, with smaller allocations available through the local and community
Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: I welcome the witnesses and thank them for
enlightening us further in our investigation into the arts and social inclusion. I will begin by
declaring an interest in terms of my involvement in a community theatre and in the National
Campaign for the Arts. I was very interested in the interactive approach to which Ms Nash
referred in respect of Kerry County Council. Is this something the Department might consider
in terms of using it as a template for recommendation to local authorities?
An issue that has come to my notice in recent weeks is that the funding from the Department
of the Environment, Community and Local Government to local authorities is discretionary,
with the latter free to decide how much or how little of it is spent on the arts. Does Ms
McNulty envisage a policy change whereby a recommendation could be made to local
authorities that they should allocate a certain amount to the arts? Many of those involved in
delivering arts programmes are concerned by the uncertainty that arises in a situation where
funding is discretionary rather than compulsory.
I am strongly of the view that arts officers should be recognised as managers rather than
officers given that they are managing arts activity across the country. The delivery of many of
the initiatives undertaken by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Arts
Council are heavily reliant on the arts manager in each local authority area. For example, the
success of the Culture Night initiative in towns and cities throughout the country was largely
down to the active engagement of arts officers in making the most of the opportunity to
encourage people to participate.
Do the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht see an opportunity to work together to make
use of the many empty properties throughout the State for the benefit of the arts? While there
is currently no capital investment in the arts, community requirements remain. I still have
people knocking on my door to tell me they need an arts centre in Portarlington, a fine town
straddling the border of counties Laois and Offaly. The reality is that there is no capital
funding available for Portarlington and no access funding programme to which it might
apply. However, those in the town are very keen to progress matters in this regard. I would
love the two Departments to collaborate in some way in order to facilitate the efforts of those
Another issue which has arisen is that of multi-annual funding. Do our guests from the
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht see a role for themselves in the context of
attaching a policy condition to funding for the Arts Council in order that the latter would
provide funding on a multi-annual rather than an annual basis? It is very difficult to plan any
kind of arts programme if one is not certain of one’s funding. It is so much easier for those
community groups which are delivering arts programmes and projects and which can lever
multi-annual funding from, for example, Pobal, to plan their activities. These activities tend
to be much more effective and successful. When I put this question to the Arts Council, its
reply was that it does not know what is going to be the level of its funding and, therefore, it
cannot really be expected to provide funding to other organisations on a multi-annual basis.
However, it has a general idea with regard to the amount of money it is going to receive and
should easily be able to make plans to provide multi-annual funding to the organisations to
which I refer. If organisations such as Pobal can provide funding of this nature, why can the
Arts Council not do so? It might be of assistance if a policy decision were made within the
Department in respect of this matter.
Are the national institutions being challenged to reach out into the community? Does, for
example, the National Gallery, which is located adjacent to the Houses of the Oireachtas,
reach out to local schools in the area? Does it reach out to community and other groups?
Does the Department encourage the National Gallery and other national institutions to engage
in this type of activity and, if so, how successful have their efforts been in this regard?
I would be keen to discover whether the Department is tracking the participation of young
people in the arts. I was very heartened to hear about the points of alignment and the fact that
the Department is engaging in meetings with the Department of Education and Skills in this
regard. This is an excellent development. That is all I wish to say for the moment but I would
appreciate the opportunity to intervene again later.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Go raibh maith agat a Chathaoirligh, agus gabh mo
leithscéal go raibh mé mall. Bhí mé ag iarraidh beith ag troid i gcoinne an chonartha fioscach
sa tSeanad. My vested interest in this regard is my believe that the arts are ultra important. I
come from an arts background and I am of the view that it is important to engage in debates
of this nature. At times of fiscal restraint, it is vital that we should not take our eyes off the
ball in respect of the arts. The work the Departments and the practitioners on the ground are
doing is absolutely to the country. The arts have the potential to be a great source of
employment in the future, which is an aspect on which we must focus a great deal more.
I come from Galway, the unofficial culture capital of Ireland. We are very lucky with the
quality of arts on offer in Galway and, in particular, with the arts officers who work there. I
wish to note the passing of one of the giants of the arts community in Ireland, Mike Diskin,
who for many years did amazing work with various organisations. Mike passed away recently
and his has been a huge loss to the people of Galway.
A number of really interesting points have arisen out of what our guests had to say. In a
previous existence, I had some dealings with the local community development programme,
LCDP, and Leader. I would be interested in hearing about some of the practical projects that
have been funded through the Leader programme. There has not been a huge number of such
projects. Potentially, there will be reasonable funding available in respect of this area in the
future and the arts groups are going to be obliged to tap into this on a regular basis.
On inclusion and accessibility to the arts, are our guests in a position to provide specific
information on groups involving people with disabilities and their access to arts activities?
There is a very good project in Galway University Hospital which offers a number of
different arts activities for the patients there and for people who are passing through. Are
there any other examples of projects which are specifically directed at people with
I am a Gaelgeoir and I have a great grá for the Irish language. I have been very involved in
the arts, as Gaeilge, through the years. I am somewhat concerned with regard to the report of
An Choimisinéara Teanga, which indicates that quite a number of the arts institutions in the
State are not really living up to their commitments on the Irish language. I am not sure
whether this matter comes within the remit of our guests’ Departments or whether they would
like to comment on it. There is certainly a need for the institutions to which I refer to come up
to the mark. In a number of different reports, An Choimisinéara Teanga has indicated that the
latter really are not living up to their commitments.
Reference was made to the arts division within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the
Gaeltacht and the number of staff employed there. How many staff were lost as a result of the
recent early retirement scheme? How many people left positions relating to the arts in local
Most arts groups are quite seiftiúil or clever when it comes to obtaining funding from
different sources. They are also good at obtaining donations, etc. Is there any indication that
the level of funding available from the Arts Council, the Department of Arts, Heritage and
the Gaeltacht or local authorities has decreased? The amount of money arts groups have been
able to obtain from other sources has decreased as a result of the difficult financial and
economic position in which we find ourselves. I apologise for posing questions in respect of
so many different matters but while our guests are here, I might as well make the most of the
In the context of disability and people who are disadvantaged, many artists would count
themselves as being members of this category. Individual artists find it very difficult to
survive and many - be their writers, artists, actors or whatever - view themselves as having a
vocation to their art. One of the difficulties which arises for them relates to their interaction
with the Department of Social Protection in the context of claiming jobseeker’s benefit or
allowance. Countries such as France have what is colloquially termed “artists’ dole”, which
takes cognisance of the nature of the life of artists. Is there any interaction with the
Department of Social Protection with regard to recognition for artists in order that there might
be a better understanding of their needs and the transient nature of the work they do? Such
work can be very seasonal in nature and it can often be a case of there being either a feast or a
famine. If, for example, someone is writing a book, he or she might receive a huge advance in
the early part of the year but might then be on the breadline for the remainder of the year.
Such considerations are not necessarily taken into account by the Department of Social
I am a colleague of Carál Ní Chuilín, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North.
Is there any North-South co-operation which occurs and about which our guests are in a
position to tell us? Thankfully, most arts groups do not recognise the Border and some
fantastic collaborations have taken place. What is the nature of the relationship between the
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and its counterpart in the North?
In the context of local government, I am a former member of one of the social inclusion
measures groups. Is any kind of accessibility-proofing carried out in respect of the funding
provided to local authorities in order to discover whether those with disabilities, minority
groups, etc., are obtaining access to the arts?
I was recently contacted by a person who works in the area of film. The Minister for Arts,
Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, has recognised the fact that there is massive
potential in this area. For a relatively small investment, it would be possible to obtain a huge
capital injection from film companies seeking to shoot here. Much of the spend relating to
films is local. However, I have been informed that the Irish Film Board’s funding for the
development of film in the regions has been cut back. I am not sure whether our guests can
confirm whether, in fact, this is the case.
Vice Chairman: I apologise for interrupting but I must remind the Senator that this
matter is outside our remit. We are dealing with social inclusion. Film does not come within
the remit of the committee at present.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: It does involve social inclusion in one sense because
the largest film industry outside of Dublin is based in the west. I know from experience that
many people in peripheral areas within the western region a very dependent on the industry. I
take the Vice Chairman’s point but I would appreciate it if the information I am seeking
could be forwarded to me by our guests.
On the connection between the Arts Council and the Department, who has responsibility for
the actual State strategy for the Arts? Is there such a strategy actually in place? Is there is,
does it contain a specific inclusion policy which indicates that certain things must happen for
people with disabilities, those on lower incomes, those from the regions, etc.?
I appreciate the latitude the Vice Chairman has afforded me. The potential for jobs in the arts
is massive. Has the Department drawn up a jobs strategy regarding jobs that could be created
through the arts?
Mr. Seán Ó Móráin: Freagróidh mé an cheist faoin Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga. Is dócha
go mbaineann an cheist sin le Rannóg na Gaeltachta. Tá fíor-obair á dhéanamh ag Ealaín na
Gaeltachta, atá maoinithe ag Údarás na Gaeltachta. I ngach Gaeltacht anois, tá an-chuid oibre
idir lámha ag amharclanna beaga le daoine óga, mar shampla An Lab sa Daingean.
With regard to the query on access for people with mental disability, there is a wonderful
project in Waterford Regional Hospital called the healing arts project. It is well worth a visit.
People can access this facility funded under the Access scheme.
Ms Mary Nash: There is a section in the programme for Government that calls for us to work
with NAMA to get the use of empty buildings for arts organisations. NAMA deals more with
leases but we are looking at ways of using empty buildings. Arts groups have been ahead of
the Department with some of them making their own arrangements with landlords. I was very
interested in the arrangements made by Limerick City Council and will follow up on it.
It is important we put together a template lease arrangement which will allow an arts
organisation a peppercorn rent on an empty building. Landlords will be happy if they have
someone in their buildings even if they are not getting any rent because security issues would
be dealt with. They would be concerned, however, that when they want a group to vacate
their premises when they need them, they will do so.
The Arts Act prohibits the Department from giving any direction on funding to the Arts
Council. Accordingly, we cannot give multi-annual funding to any organisation. However,
from the top of Government all the way down, recipients of funding are broken down into
two tiers – those which get multi-annual funding and those which have to take up whatever
slack is left. The Arts Council gives multi-annual funding to one organisation and is
examining giving it to others. The more clients put into the multi-annual funding box, the
more second-class citizens the other clients become, however. Take the example of €100
million in funding in one year. If one organisation got multi-annual funding of €50 million
from that but the total allocation dropped the following year to €80 million, the other
organisations have only access to €30 million. I know the Arts Council is examining the
issue. The Department, however, would not go down the road of multi-annual funding.
We do not have any way of measuring the participation of young people in the arts. We do
have arts audience surveys which give us some bits of information. Part of our service level
agreement with Comhaltas CeoltóiríÉireann is that it must give us the number of young
people it trains. Again, however, we are just scratching the surface.
Two officials retired in the arts division while one died and was not replaced. All
organisations, such as the Arts Council, have taken hits on funding. There is a model in the
UK to which we aspire which sees organisations getting one third of their funding from the
State, one third from the box office and one third from fundraising and sponsorship.
Vice Chairman: We would all like that.
Ms Mary Nash: All our organisations generally subsist on a combination of that formula. All
of these three elements have been hit. In most cases where organisations have managed to
maintain their services, it is because they have tightened their belts, taken wage cuts, found
efficiencies and cut down on back office operations. Some, however, have had to reduce their
The Irish Film Board’s funding has been substantially cut. Most of its funding is capital. I did
not think its regional funding had been cut but I can check it out for the Senator.
The Arts Council has its arts strategy while the Department has its own. The interactive
strategy with the local authorities falls into my area of responsibility in the arts.
Regarding Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy’s question on tracking the participation of
young people in the arts, all of the national cultural institutions have outreach programmes.
For instance, the Irish Museum of Modern Art has a programme which encourages families
to attend the museum. It has divided its programmes into three structures for young teens,
older teens and children, as well as a family event. The National Museum has a programme
with Larkin community college on Sean MacDermott Street on the six statues on O’Connell
Street, entitled Local Heroes and Moving Statues. An old pub quiz question is how many
statues are on O’Connell Street when in fact there is only one as the rest are monuments. The
students get the older local residents of the area to tell them stories about the statues. The
older residents have a sense of worth in that the children are asking them about their wealth
of information. The third phase of this partnership will involve an exploration of the 1913
lock-out, using the six statues on O’Connell Street as a starting point.
The museum, the students and staff from Larkin community college, the older people and
volunteer specialists from the local community will gather and listen to stories that bring
alive, remember and honour those from Dublin’s inner city who suffered during the lock-out.
The National Museum is currently planning that the emerging local stories may form part of a
performing art event, although the art form has not yet been decided. There are quotes from
people, with an older resident stating: “The talent and unity in the classroom on Wednesdays
is absolutely fabulous, and the experience has left me with a very ‘young at heart’ feeling.” A
student from Larkin community college said “During this project we get to learn about the
history of Ireland and work as part of a time but the best part is that we get to show off our
great work and perform it to the people of Ireland.”
Vice Chairman: The witness can circulate the comments to the members. I am sure
they would be very interested in some bedtime reading.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Has the concept of the artist’s dole been considered
along with the disconnection with the Department of Social Protection?
Ms Mary Nash: It is certainly perceived as a problem but it is unclear if the issue is as it is
perceived. We have come across this in the interaction with the practitioners in Kerry. People
indicated they were not prepared to set up on their own as crafts people as they were afraid if
it did not work out, they would be unemployed and have no social protection. I queried this
with people in the Department of Social Protection and they indicated that this was not the
way it worked. If a person has stopped the activity, there is no assessment and the conclusion
is there is no income, so those people get the dole. However, if the activity is continuing, they
work out a system for how much the people are likely to earn in the coming 12 months, and
they would be paid the dole minus that amount. There is much confusion around this and I
have heard the same arguments over and over again. It is not restricted to the arts context so
there should be some room for clarification from the Department of Social Protection.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: What about the North-South issue?
Ms Mary Nash: There are a small number of programmes in the Department which support
North-South initiatives, including an orchestra. There are a couple of North-South bodies in
the Department, including Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga. They are in other parts
of the Department and do not come under my area of expertise.
Mr. Donal Enright: I will reply to a number of questions asked by Deputy Corcoran Kennedy
in particular. She asked about the example from Ms Nash regarding the interactive approach
being developed in Kerry and if it would be extended to other local authorities. As I have said
a number of times, the Department with policy responsibility in a particular area would
engage with a local authority, and it is very much part of the brief for the Department dealing
with arts and heritage. Ms Nash has been intimately involved with that and we see her
Department’s engagement with local authorities as the way forward. If required, we would be
more than happy to speak with Ms Nash in that regard.
The Deputy asked about discretionary funding and if we will move to earmarking some of
that for the arts. If we are asked to earmark some of it for the arts, we would be asked to
earmark the rest for everything else, which is a difficulty when the local government system
is meant specifically for local governance. We have elected representatives which are meant
to and do understand their local area and local communities. They understand what can be of
assistance for the arts, the leverage they get at a local level and what can be done with regard
to disadvantage etc. Why would we specify that a local authority should spend a certain
percentage when it may be beneficial for one authority to spend a bit more or others a bit
less? These are the reasons we do not foresee going down that road.
If there are needs for spending in particular areas or projects and it is supported, for example,
by the Arts Council with the provision of funds or funding streams from central government
for housing, planning, urban renewal or the arts, that can be earmarked. Discretionary
funding will not be used in that context.
The Deputy asked about arts officers being renamed as arts managers. We recognise that arts
officers are important members of local authority staff and they contribute across the board in
their own area with arts contributions. They report to a director of service, who is responsible
for integrating the delivery in a community or enterprise area in an integrated manner. We are
in the midst of trying to find efficiencies in the local government system, with the local
government efficiency review group report placing a premium on generating staff savings
through downsizing, managing more efficiently and streamlining middle and senior
management. There are staffing and industrial implications for renaming particular groups or
grades of officers. In the context of local authority sizes and efficiencies, as well as industrial
relations implications, any proposal from a local authority would have to take the competing
requirements into account. In the current circumstances, I do not see it, although it may
happen after a period. For the moment there is a difficulty.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh asked about staff retirements in the local authority arts area. Since the
high point, local authority staff has decreased from 37,250 by 8,500. After the clear-out at the
end of February, the staffing figure would be just short of 28,750. There has been very
significant downsizing in the local authority system but posts are being filled as needed. In
that same period 17 posts in the arts area - although not all strictly arts officers - have been
approved to be filled. Some of these may have been deployed to the museum, for example,
but the 17 posts are in the arts or that sphere.
Vice Chairman: I thank the witnesses for the comprehensive responses to the issues
raised by the members. There is no doubt that considerable funding is being invested by arts
groups across the country in various projects. Are the witnesses satisfied that we are reaching
out to the people who need it most and are we dealing as effectively as possible with social
inclusion? The committee is focusing on those issues so I would like a brief comment on
The question of Leader company funding, particularly the shortage thereof, was also raised.
An indication of the all-embracing nature of the arts is that if one read the Irish Farmers’
Journal from two weeks ago, one would have seen the headline that the amount of money
remaining unspent by Leader groups across the country is significant, with only 20% of
funding spent at this stage, with only a few years to go in the programme. This raises the
difficulty I encounter as a public representative when dealing with these issues. Community
groups that seek funding invariably find it has been exhausted under the heading they are
seeking it but ample funding could be available under a different heading. One group has
been waiting since last October. It was advised the money could be available under another
heading but it is still waiting for approval. That is frustrating for such groups, which are run
on a voluntary basis by people who dedicate their own time and effort. What is the
relationship between Leader groups and departmental officials? Why do they not pick up a
telephone to talk to each other? I was informed by the Department that it approved the Leader
groups’ spending of the money but they insist they received nothing in writing in the
Department and until they get that, they are not prepared to deal with funding. That is an
example of the difficulties that exist. Is the Irish Farmers’ Journal is correct that this funding
is available and has not been spent and that there difficulties in spending it?
Ms Rita McNulty: With regard to the Irish Farmers’ Journal article, we are expecting a
correction. The journalist who wrote that was on to us at the end of last week acknowledging
that there were serious mistakes. The information was provided by us but the way it was
analysed and put together presented a seriously inaccurate picture. He has assured us that will
be corrected. However, the Vice Chairman’s point is still valid. There are areas in the
programme that are underspent and there are various reasons for that, including the fact that,
particularly in the private sector, people are finding it hard to get matching funding from
credit institutions. In the community sphere, the basic services measure is well subscribed.
There is scope for various community-arts type initiatives to be undertaken under this. We
are, unfortunately, governed by EU regulations and it is bureaucratic but it is important to
distinguish between the role the Department has through the rural development section of the
community division in overseeing this part of the programme and the role of the 36 Leader
companies around the country, which are delegated the responsibility under the EU
regulations for the administration and approval of projects. Technically, the local Leader
company assesses the project submitted by the private sector person and makes the decision.
We have introduced certain checks and balances into that system to make sure there is no
intentional or unintentional breach of the rules which would cost us in penalties if that were a
problem down the line with European Commission auditors. We ask the Leader companies if
they have projects in excess of, for example, €150,000 or €200,000, and these must be
approved by the Department in terms of all the boxes being ticked and the company checking
all the required criteria and eligibility and so on. Ultimately, the decision is delegated to the
local Leader company.
There are a number of aspects to the reason there is a lower spend at this point than we might
expect, some of which I have mentioned. The other is that the programme started a year and a
half late. It has gained a great deal of momentum in the past year and the spend has increased
significantly year on year. However, in the context of needing to spend the money quickly
and to make sure we avail of all of the available funds, the Minister has agreed to request
changes from the Commission regarding various aspects of the programme to make it mores
user friendly, less bureaucratic and, if successful, to change the grant aid rates. That remains
to be seen as that is a Commission decision. I do not have the figure for the amount spent
with me but it is going in the right direction. There has been an increase in funding.
We are concerned about a number of measures and we are also concerned that some areas
seem to be able spend better than others. We are hoping that people who will be able to spend
significant amounts will be allowed to do so. If the Commission approves that, there are a
number of elements of this where we would expect to see the spend accelerating in the future.
With regard to whether we are reaching the people who need it most in the context of social
inclusion, most of the programmes run through the community division of our Department
such as the local and community development programme, the RAPID programme, the
community and voluntary supports, the volunteering programme and so on have a specific
focus on social inclusion but not particularly in regard to the arts. Some of them cover the
community arts but there is a focus on social inclusion in a large part of the programmes we
fund through our division. There are social inclusion officers in 15 local authorities part
funded by our Department and part of their role is to proof for social inclusion. They examine
the county development strategies, the corporate plans and other plans devised at local level
and essentially proof them from a social inclusion point of view. The role of social inclusion
officers is being examined in the context of all the changes going on in local government but
they had the role in the past.
I refer to the practical projects funded under Leader. One project funded by Kilkenny Leader
relates to young Irish film makers. It is a rural outreach programme and while it is based in
Kilkenny city, it reaches out into the rural areas of the county. It is about targeting young,
marginalised people to get them involved in film. It is undertaken in association with the
family resource centre and the community development projects in the city. Another project
in Inishowen, Donegal, called the Clipper 12 youth arts training and education programme,
delivers training in flag making, circus skills, movement and dance, instrument making and
music, including drumming, which all form part of the welcome and farewell displays and
performances at the viewpoint on the Foyle shore during the week of the clipper visit. There
is also a project in Ballyhoura and in south west Mayo, a project is aimed at older people,
called Hearth, to enable them to find creativity in a safe environment. There are four
measures in the rural development programme under which it is possible to access funding.
They are not geared specifically towards the arts but there is scope under the basic services,
village renewal, conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage and the training and
information measures for specific arts projects to be funded even though that is not their core
There was a question about the jobs strategy and the arts but that is not our area. The Western
Development Commission, WDC, which falls under the aegis of the Department, did
interesting work in regard to the creative industries. Sligo County Council in association with
the WDC secured funding from the EU which is aimed at creating jobs and growth in the
creative economy in the local area. There probably is a debate in the arts world around the
creative arts and job creation and so on but that is something a number of local authorities are
examining in the context of job creation.
Vice Chairman: I thank Ms McNulty very much. That concludes this stage of our
consideration of this topic. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Ms Rita McNulty: I would like to amend an earlier comment I made in response to Deputy
Troy’s question about RAPID areas. It is not the case that some RAPID areas are ineligible
under the rural development programme because it does not cover urban areas.
Vice Chairman: I thank Ms McNulty for clarifying that matter. I thank Ms Mary Nash,
an tUsual Seán Ó Móráin, Ms Rita McNulty and Mr. Donal Enright for assisting us in our
The joint committee adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 April 2012.
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