Arts Bill 2002: Report Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 23:
In page 6, to delete lines 32 to 35.
– (Deputy Deenihan).

I welcome the Minister's earlier response to the points I had made concerning artists' living conditions. I am not asking him to turn this legislation into a social welfare Bill but he might consider the fact that, under section 10, the Minister can seek to confer other functions on the Arts Council. Section 10(1) states:

The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance and after consultation with the Council and such other Minister of the Government (if any) as he or she considers appropriate, by order confer on the Council such additional functions connected with the functions for the time being of the Council as he or she thinks fit subject to such conditions (if any) as may be specified in the order.

It might well be that the living and working conditions of artists – and the circumstances in which they find themselves, as I have outlined in the debate – might well be a function that the Minister would want to give to the Arts Council. Writers, poets, concert pianists and other performers might reasonably look to the Arts Council as a body that speaks for their interests. As I have pointed out, most artists would not qualify for social housing on income grounds. In addition, one cannot register as an unemployed actor because one would be asked to accept a job as a lounge waiter or whatever. "Artist" is not accepted as a category of employment and so, for example, particular difficulties can arise for dancers who suffer from arthritis. Given artists' living and working conditions – and the way in which they are affected by the Social Welfare Bill, the Finance Bill and various promotional schemes – it is reasonable for them to expect that the Arts Council should speak on their behalf. Although I know we are discussing section 9, this may be an additional function that the Minister could con sider placing on the Arts Council in the context of section 10.

I tabled this amendment based on submissions that were made in response to the report entitled Towards a New Framework for the Arts, which was compiled by Theo Dorgan. The Minister referred to the origins of my own party so I would like to clarify where this amendment came from. In page 12, section 19, the Dorgan report states:

Nobody wants the Department entering into a specific relationship with the individual artist. This is most widely expressed in submissions calling for the maintenance of the arm's length relationship with the Arts Council, which are often predicated on guarding the individual artist and, to a lesser extent, arts organisations, against politically motivated proscription. The poet Paula Meehan expresses this point of view when she says, in submission no. 179: "No artist wants to feel they are a politician's pet, and no politician in her or his right mind would want an artist as a pet".

The most important statement was made by Kieran Benson. As the report states:

More gravely, Kieran Benson points out the horrific record in the 20th century of politicians subordinating art and artists for dark ends.

It was in that context that I made my statement, and Benson obviously referred to regimes such as that in Nazi Germany. I was in no way pointing the finger at the Minister, however, but the last Arts Act was enacted in 1973 and the next 30 years could see major changes in our country.

As regards the reference to Blueshirts and our party, I might say that the Blueshirts lasted for one year and I doubt if they were involved in killing anybody. They were set up basically to protect free speech when Cumann na nGaedheal election rallies were being disrupted across the country. We saw an attempt to do something similar last night. The party originated some 80 years ago and it has made a major contribution to the arts. Recently, when I was undertaking some research on the party's history, I found that it has approved Amhrán na bhFiann as our national anthem. The former leader of the Minister's party, Éamon de Valera, strategically adopted the line of that anthem to name his party Fianna Fáil. The origins of our party are clear and we have made a positive contribution to the arts over the years.

I have based this amendment on those submissions that were made to the Dorgan report; it is not just something I thought up by myself. While I know the Minister will not accept the amendment, this provision could in future be exploited by an individual Minister or a Government in order to change that arm's length relationship that has always been accepted between the Arts Council and any Minister or Government.

Everybody knows it is not possible for me to confer the kinds of powers which Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked me to confer on the Arts Council because that is not its function. The question of entitlements for people who are involved in the arts is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs and, as such, has to be dealt with by that Department. Their applications must be dealt with in the same way as any other citizen's application. I am satisfied that the functions which are being conferred on the Arts Council encompass the broad arts area and that they will benefit the entire sector.

I made the case clearly on Second Stage a year ago and on Committee and Report Stages. This provision gives the Minister too much power. It will reverse the long-held arm's length approach which was paramount to the existence of the Arts Council. When the first Act was introduced in 1951, the then Taoiseach, John A. Costello, insisted that the President must appoint the chairman of the Arts Council. I will move an amendment shortly to ensure that distance is maintained. This provision will change that. It is an undesirable change in the Bill.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 26 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 24.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 7, line 35, to delete "8" and substitute "12".

Deputies Deenihan and Wall raised on Committee Stage the issue of increasing the size of the council. Having carefully reflected on it, I believe their suggestion makes sense. Accordingly, amendment No. 24 will increase the size of the council from eight to 12 ordinary members. I would also like to propose further technical amendments which arise as a direct consequence of the amendment to increase the number of ordinary members on the Arts Council. These will adjust section 11(5) and 11(6) of the Bill to take account of the increase in the size of the council. Section 11(5) will be amended as follows: In page 8, line 1, to delete "4" and substitute "6". Section 11(6) will be amended as follows: In page 8, line 4, to delete "4" and substitute "6" and in page 8, line 5, to delete "4" and substitute "6".

As regards amendments Nos. 25 and 26, I indicated on Committee Stage that it is my belief that the best people must serve on the Arts Council and that it must be open to the Minister of the day to make the right choices in that context. The proposed amendments suggest that membership should include representation from Northern Ireland or other regions or from particular art forms. I do not believe that is the best way to proceed in the future. The Arts Council and all its members must have as their focus the arts as a whole in all its form throughout all the country. It is more a question of choosing the right members who can take such a balanced approach to ensure that everyone is represented, which is not possible anyway. Accordingly, I cannot accept these amendments.

I welcome the Minister's decision to increase the number on the Arts Council from eight to 12. That will give the council a better balance and will cover a wider range of persons and groups interested in the different art forms. I understand the logic behind the Minister's argument not to accept the other amendments. It will be a difficult task for any Minister to appoint a board with many vested interests. As we know from the representations we received on this Bill, the Arts Council probably has the widest vested interests. I would not like to be in the Minister's position of trying to form a board which meets all the demands of the representative associations and the individuals who contacted us. However, I am sure the Minister will do everything he can to facilitate all the groups and to ensure a balanced Arts Council. It is imperative that we use the opportunity of a new Bill and a new board to ensure as wide a representation on the board as possible. The members of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann contacted us to ensure that someone from that area of the arts is represented on the board.

As regards the boards and councils of organisations to which the Minister must appoint members, it is important that we consider employees in the stated area of interest. There is a wide range of people employed in the arts throughout the country, such as the arts officers in local authorities. I hope consideration will be given to employees when the Minister constitutes a new board. I hope the representation is as wide-ranging as possible. We have increased the number on the board to facilitate that and to give the board a better balance. I am sure the Minister will reflect on what we have said about the constitution of the board.

I thank the Minister for accepting the suggestions made by Deputy Wall and me on Committee Stage to increase the numbers on the Arts Council. I made the proposal in the context of securing an additional standing committee. The people the Minister chooses to be on the new Arts Council must encompass the broad definition of the arts, including the visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, cinema, circus and architecture. I hope it will be representative. I realise there is a large number of diverse groups representing the performing and visual arts. Judging by the way the Minister chose the board of Fáilte Ireland, which was a fair selection, I am sure he will ensure balance in his selection for the new Arts Council. Both Deputy Wall and I helped the Minister in his decision. It would have been difficult if he had to choose eight instead of 12 people.

As regards my amendment about regional representation, I remember at one stage it was said that there was no representative on the Arts Council south of a line between Dublin and Galway. Regional representation and balance will be important. As I said this morning when I pressed the amendment on the role of local authorities in the context of this Bill, there are many blackspots in this country in terms of provision for the arts. People are deprived of basic contact with the arts. They do not have an opportunity to view an exhibition unless they travel to major urban areas such as Dublin. They never witness the arts in their own communities. The only way that can be done is through local authorities. However, there could also be a fair and reasonable geographical distribution of members on the Arts Council in order that all of them would not be Dublin-based. The council should represent all parts of the country.

I welcome the increase in the number of members to 12. It is important that the appointees should have vast experience and expertise in the areas I outlined. They should be the best people for the job and should not be appointed on the basis of political affiliation. They should also be independent and have the interest of the arts at heart and should not be on the council solely to represent the views of the Minister.

Over the years, great people have served on successive Arts Councils. They were strong, independent voices for the arts in Ireland and that is why the arts have flourished. I will not mention names because there are too many but I urge the Minister to continue that tradition of appointments by successive Governments.

With regard to amendment No. 24, I was interested in the possibility of a streamlined council because it could have been more efficient but, in light of what happened on Committee Stage, there is scope for a contribution by people representing a variety of art forms and I have no problem with the increase in numbers. I am glad the membership has not been increased to the high number of the past.

With regard to amendment No. 26, on the day we are taking parochial influences out of the health service, we should not seek to include them in this legislation. The Minister has made the point well that the people appointed to the council should be the best in their speciality arts field or have a wide knowledge of the arts. Geography should not influence the appointments. This point also applies to amendment No. 28 in that it should not necessarily be a requirement that the members should speak Irish.

The appointment of the new Arts Council is both a challenge and an opportunity and is something to which I have given careful consideration over several months. I have as much talent available to me in the arts sector as the Kerry selectors currently have in the Gaelic football fields of the county.

In the forward line anyway.

Each member of the council may well represent one or two disciplines but it is of immense importance, irrespective of which discipline or region the individual represents, that he or she should make a constructive contribution across the broad spectrum of the arts. I neither need nor want people to have a narrow focus. If I were to engage in the process of appointing people from the regions, it would be implicit that the people concerned would be expected to represent the regions and that would be unsatisfactory. In the same way, if people are appointed to represent certain disciplines, there would be a failure to address the arts sector in its entirety and diversity. I expect that members of the council should realise this. The entire sector requires assistance from the council.

It is also of immense importance that the membership of the council should not be introspective. It is important that the new council should look outwards at the broader world stage and glean experience in that regard. The appointment of the council is of immense importance and we must be extremely careful.

I can be certain of one point. The question of an individual's political affiliation will not decide whether he or she will be on the Arts Council. If I were to embark on that course, I would do a grave disservice to the council and the sector. That is something I will not do. However, a number of people who deserve to be on the council will not be appointed because of the surplus of talent available. There is provision in the legislation in regard to a roll-over, which can be usefully used by future Ministers.

I welcome the Minister's remarks and I am encouraged by the commitments he has given regarding the composition of the Arts Council, the question of political affiliation and so on. I agree with him regarding his approach towards the appointment of the new council and the need for its members to be outward looking and to take a broad, all-embracing view of the arts. I welcome the Minister's reply and endorse the sentiments he expressed regarding membership.

With regard to my amendment, it is probable that not all the council members will be from Dublin and that there will be regional representation. This is important because some decisions will involve the disbursement of funds throughout the State, for example, to professional theatre groups in Cork and Galway that will compete for funding. That is where regional representation could be important. The membership will, naturally, represent the regions and satisfy the purpose of the amendment in any case.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.
Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.

I move the following amendment:

In page 8, line 1, to delete "4" and substitute "6".

Amendment agreed to.

I move the following amendment:

In page 8, line 4, to delete "4" and substitute "6".

Amendment agreed to.

I move the following amendment:

In page 8, line 5, to delete "4" and substitute "6".

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman:

Amendment No. 28 is an alternative to amendment No. 27 and both may be taken together.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 7, to delete lines 39 and 40 and substitute the following:

"(2)(a) The chairperson of the Council shall be appointed by the President.

(b) The members of the Council shall be appointed by the Minister.

(c) A representative from Northern Ireland should sit on the Council as an ordinary member.”.

I referred to this issue earlier in regard to the appointment of the chairperson of the council. The first Arts Bill was introduced by the Taoiseach of the day, John A. Costello, and he gave the responsibility to appoint the chairperson of the Arts Council to the President to ensure the appointment was kept outside politics. That philosophy has run through most of my contributions on Second and Committee Stages, but obviously that has changed. I moved that amendment on Committee Stage but the Minister did not accept it. I am in favour of maintaining an arm's length approach between Government and the Arts Council. It would be appropriate that the Pres ident appoint the chairperson of the council and that the members of the council be appointed by the Minister. I accept that all State boards are under the control of a particular Minister.

I am most anxious about paragraph c) of my amendment which proposes that "a representative from Northern Ireland should sit on the Council as an ordinary member". I say this in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the developments that have taken place on this island since. The more communication we can have between agencies, Departments and State boards, North and South, the better for future relationships on this island. This is true of sport as well as every other aspect of life. I was delighted last evening to be involved in a very important sporting event between the Oireachtas and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This was a very successful event and although it was only a game, in a small way it helped to bring about greater understanding of the PSNI, which is the police force of the future in Northern Ireland, although some people may have difficulty with that idea.

The two Arts Councils have been co-operating on arts development on the island of Ireland since the 1960s and that has been intensified since the Good Friday Agreement. The two councils have granted joint funding to a wide range of arts organisations and programme supports North and South. They have worked together to get more funding for cross-Border initiatives and for initiatives on both sides of the Border, and they have done so very effectively. The Arts Council on this side of the Border has not received sufficient credit for the very successful initiatives it pursued with the Arts Council in Northern Ireland. Aosdána, which was established by the Arts Council with a membership of approximately 150 artists, has members from North and South. Under the Good Friday Agreement the way is open to look for a new level of co-operation for mutual advantage across the arts communities North and South.

Although it is not a requirement, it is the practice to appoint a prominent person from Northern Ireland to the Seanad. At present Senator Maurice Hayes is making a major contribution to politics. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment if it is technically possible. The parliamentary counsel or the Minister's officials may have reasons it cannot be done but I believe it would send out an important message about the level of co-operation which is intensifying between both Arts Councils and among diverse organisations throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic. This would be an important development.

A large number of twinning arrangements are in place between towns North and South of the Border. I am involved in one between Downpatrick and Listowel which is proving to be very effective. Much of the co-operation between the towns is in the areas of the arts, heritage and culture.

From my experience and from what is hap pening with Aosdána and between the two Arts Councils in sourcing funding, aside from the Ireland Funds, the International Fund for Ireland, INTERREG and other funding sources, I am convinced that having a permanent member on the new Arts Council from Northern Ireland would be a very helpful and positive move. It would ensure that people would be aware of what is happening in both councils and that both councils would be familiar with developments on both sides of the island. I hope the Minister views this amendment in a positive way.

I had originally hoped to submit amendment No. 28 as two separate amendments because it consists of two distinct parts. One part concerns the Irish language and the other relates to the terms of office of the chairperson of the new Arts Council.

The Bill does not specify the period of office of the chairperson or whether he is eligible for reappointment or may serve as an ordinary member when he has completed his time as chairperson. During the Committee State debate the Minister said he would welcome Members' views on this matter. I had hoped the Minister would have included guidelines or criteria to allow the Arts Council, as the newest State board, to set the standard which other State boards might follow.

The amendment proposes that the chairperson may be appointed for two consecutive terms of four years and no longer. This would prevent a chairperson building up a fiefdom or making the Arts Council his hobby-horse. Changes in personnel would allow for fresh thinking and creativity, something which is needed in arts policy. It would also ensure that the chairperson of the council would not become stuck in a rut or develop a bias. There is also the danger that a board would merely manage or administer the arts rather than encourage creativity and develop policy, as is set out in the Bill.

The Minister may reply that the chairperson's term of office is five years. However section 11(4) states: "Subject to subsection (5), the ordinary members of the Council shall hold office for 5 years from the date of their appointment." However, subsection 11(1) distinguishes the chairperson from the ordinary members. The period of office of the chairperson is not specified in the section. I hope the Minister will accept the spirit of my amendment.

The first subsection of my amendment refers to a requirement that members of the council should be sufficiently fluent in Irish and English to enable the council to perform its functions through the medium of either official language. A Deputy has already said she would oppose such a requirement but I do not think it is unreasonable. Considering the current debate in the House on the Official Languages Bill and the fact that Irish is the first official language, this is the least we should expect of our board members. Some people might say that in this day and age this might be extreme, but I do not believe so. Especially in the arts world, we should be setting a standard that would then be reflected afterwards in the rest of society, but especially in the rest of the State boards and Departments.

I support the proposal from Deputy Deenihan that a representative from Northern Ireland should sit on the Council as an ordinary member. Having served in the Seanad with the late Gordon Wilson, I believe in the importance of the ability of people from Northern Ireland to assist and move forward policy down here reflective of their own place of residence, and this can be done. As Deputy Deenihan stated, it may not be possible to provide for it in the legislation but perhaps the Minister would give an indication that where there is an equality of ability and interest in developing the arts, we could look at appointing someone from Northern Ireland. This would move forward the process of integration between North and South. It is of vital importance that this should be so, especially in the arts with a new Arts Council going forward with new legislation.

I would ask the Minister that he would give a commitment, where there is an equality of ability and interest in relation to the members, that if it is possible he would appoint someone from Northern Ireland to the new Arts Council, which obviously will be appointed upon the enactment of this legislation.

On amendment No. 27, I do not consider that it would be appropriate to involve the President in the appointment of the chair of the Arts Council. I have already explained that I do not feel that it is the way to go to select members of the Arts Council on the basis of where they come from.

On amendment No. 28, I have explained that the best people must be available to the Minister, with as few constraints as possible. To stipulate that all members must be fluent in both Irish and English would impose an unnecessary restriction in this context.

This amendment proposes a maximum term of four years for the chairperson's term of office. The Bill as it stands stipulates five years, for the chairman, as for other members, and this is satisfactory.

The Bill as it stands allows the chair and members to be appointed for any number of terms of office, but not if two terms are consecutive. It specifies that anyone, whether an ordinary member of chair, who has severed two consecutive terms, may not be appointed again at any stage. This element of the amendment is thus already accommodated. The idea of a 24-month gap between two terms of office for an ordinary member would seem to be unnecessary, given the maximum of two consecutive terms that is allowed. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 27 and 28.

There is little doubt that due deference to the Irish language is important, but it would not be appropriate that members of the Arts Council should be fluent in Irish and English. I have explained on a number of occasions, that art finds expression in different languages, not necessarily in Irish and English. It is clear that some of the great writers of many generations have written in Spanish, French and other languages. We also must ensure that there is diversity on the Arts Council. A diverse Arts Council, which is broadly spread, is a healthy Arts Council. In that respect it is important to recognise what I was saying earlier, that I expect each member of the Arts Council to take an interest in the entire sector.

There has been a practice in the past of appointing a representative from the North. Carlo Gebler is presently a member of the board of the council, Ciarán Carson has served a member of the council and there are many other such examples. While we should not legislate for representation from regions, I certainly am not excluding the possibility that somebody from Northern Ireland would be appointed to the board.

I am also aware of many arts projects which are currently jointly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Arts Council. For example, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan is one such project that immediately comes to mind.

It is obviously important that people who have a direct input, namely, artists, are on the council. I do not believe that all trappers wear fur hats and it is quite possible that somebody who is not an artist could end up on the council, provided of course that the person is deemed to have a sufficient knowledge and interest, and is capable of having an impact.

On more than one occasion today Deputy Deenihan has mentioned the first Taoiseach of the Republic – as opposed to the State – John A. Costello. I sincerely hope that when the Arts Council is bedded down I will receive the same epithet from those involved in the arts sector that John A. Costello once did. He was described as the honest broker to the claims of stronger men.

To return to the question of the chairperson, as I said there is a distinction made in section 11 between a chairperson and an ordinary member, and section 11(4) gives the term of office for ordinary members – there is no mention in section 11 of the length of term of office of the chairman.

What I was trying to do – perhaps it was not what was acceptable to the Minister – was to set out a term of office to ensure that a chairperson could not hold office for more than two terms of four years. If someone wanted to be chairperson for five years that would be fine, but nobody should hold such a position for more than two terms.

In the last part of my amendment I wanted to provide that if a person held office for a period of eight years, the experience gained by that person would not be lost to the council, that she or he could be brought back again after the lapse of 24 months.

On the Minister's response, there were a number of submissions made to the Dorgan report that supported the idea that it was good to have members in common between councils. If the Minister will be appointing somebody from Northern Ireland, as he obviously will, while there would be a major time commitment involved if a person were on both councils, it would be desirable, if possible, that the person or persons he would be appointing from there would also be on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 7, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

"(3) The Minister shall ensure that members of An Chomhairle are sufficiently fluent in both the Irish and the English languages as to enable An Chomhairle to perform its functions through the medium of either official language.

(4) The Chairperson shall be appointed by the Minister.

(5) Subject tosubsections (6) and (7), a Chairperson of An Chomhairle Ealaíon shall hold office for 4 years from the date of her or his appointment.

(6) A Chairperson shall not be eligible for reappointment where she or he has served two consecutive terms of office as Chairperson.

(7) A Chairperson shall not be eligible to be appointed as an ordinary member of An Chomhairle Ealaíon without a period of 24 months having elapsed from the ending of her or his term of office.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 8, line 18, to delete "stated reasons" and substitute "substantial reasons in the public interest, provided that as soon as practicable after such removal, a statement of such reasons shall be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas by the Minister".

The last day we discussed the Bill I stated that in many public bodies there was a lack of responsibility to this House. There is a need for us to ensure, in legislation, that this House receives such reports from the various bodies and that they are laid before the House so that they may be discussed and that Members of both Houses can reflect the thoughts of their constituents on policy positions on the various bodies.

Given the number of people who contacted us regarding this Bill, I doubt that any other piece of legislation has been the subject of so many representations. All Members have received representations from various bodies within their constituencies. This shows the level of interest in this legislation but there will be no mechanism available to allow that interest to continue. Reports from the Arts Council will not be made available for discussion in this House. We should not allow that to happen as the House will lose its identity regarding some pieces of legislation. This Bill provides an ideal opportunity for the Minister to ensure that reports are laid before the House for discussion. The interest shown in this legislation demonstrates a greater degree of involvement than was realised. Many groups made strong representations to the spokespersons of all parties. I ask the Minister to accept this amendment.

I support Deputy Wall's amendment. It makes sense and its acceptance by the Minister would strengthen the Bill and make it more accessible to this House and the community at large. I see no reason why the Minister should not accept this amendment.

The legislation states clearly in section 12(1) that the person being removed must be removed for stated reasons. It is perfectly reasonable, provided that it is done in an open and transparent manner, that the Minister would retain the right to remove somebody from the Arts Council if that were required.

With regard to debate on the removal of any such individual, I have little doubt but that Deputies Wall and Deenihan have the ingenuity to engender a debate in the House regarding the unwarranted removal of any individual from the Arts Council or indeed any other board or council.

I am informed by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel that this provision was not so much reasonable, but that this is a standard provision in this context. I see no reason to alter it and in those circumstances, I cannot accept the amendment.

I have strong feelings on this matter and believe this provision should be included in the legislation. We have lost the plot in regard to the accountability of public bodies to this House. Will the Minister indicate whether this amendment is acceptable to him in any form?

The reason for a person's removal must be stated. Nothing could be more open and transparent than that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman:

Amendment No. 30 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 31 to 34, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 32 is an alternative to amendment No. 31 and amendment No. 34 is an alternative to amendment No. 33. Amendments Nos. 30 to 34, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 10, line 7, after "Council" to insert "or a member of a committee established undersection 21 or 22”.

The effect of these amendments is to provide that the provisions of section 17, which prohibit a member of the council or a member of the staff of the council from continuing to serve if he or she becomes a Member of either House of the Oireachtas or of the European Parliament, shall apply equally to any member of a special committee established by the council under sections 21 and 22. This matter was raised by the Opposition on Committee Stage and I agree that the same principle should apply to the members of a special committee as apply to the Arts Council.

The amendments proposed by Deputies Deenihan and Wall have the same effect as amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 34.

I welcome the Minister's response. This is one contribution that we on the Opposition can say we have made to this Bill. The Minister indicated on Committee Stage that he would accept our amendments. This justifies the process of examining every section of the Bill. Deputy Wall and I identified a contradiction in the Bill and saw something that the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel overlooked. I thank the Minister for accepting the amendment.

I appreciate what the Minister has done because it will strengthen the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 10, line 14, after "Council" to insert "or a member of the committee concerned".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 10, line 32, to delete "or" and substitute ", or a committee established undersection 21 or 22, or”.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman:

Amendments Nos. 35 to 37, inclusive, and amendment No. 57 are related. Amendment No. 57 is an alternative to amendment No. 36. The amendments may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 12, line 7, after "by" to insert "law or by".

It was my belief that amendment No. 35 should be inserted in case a court decided that such information should be made available. The Bill in its present form did not provide for that. I would like to hear the Minister's views. He explained on Committee Stage why there was no need to do this but I wish to hear his explanation again.

I am accepting Deputy Wall's proposal that the Freedom of Information Act apply in full to the Arts Council.

My amendment proposes to insert "law or by".

The amendment is basically saying that a person shall not disclose confidential information, unless duly authorised by the council to do so. Is that the provision about which Deputy Wall is speaking?

I am talking about my amendment No. 35, which proposes to insert "law or by" in section 20(1). I am proposing to change line 7 of page 12 so that it will state, "unless he or she is duly authorised by law or by the Council to so do."

There is no need for this section to contain the phrase "by law", as it is implicit in the wording as it stands.

It is implicit.

Acting Chairman:

Does the Deputy propose to withdraw amendment No. 35?

I will withdraw it. Will the Minister accept amendment No. 36?

No, as amendment No. 57 in my name has the same effect. The amendments are being discussed together.

Acting Chairman:

Yes.

I am accepting Deputy Wall's proposal that the freedom of information legislation should apply in full to the Arts Council.

I thank the Minister.

As we know, Deputies expressed concern on Committee Stage that section 20, as drafted, could limit the application of the Act. Amendment No. 57, in my name, will ensure that the Arts Council is subject to the full implementation of the freedom of information legislation. The Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel has advised that amendments Nos. 35 to 37, inclusive, proposed by Deputy Wall, are not necessary to achieve this aim.

Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.

Acting Chairman:

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 38 is consequential on amendment No. 38. Amendment No. 39 is an alternative to amendment No. 38. Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 are mutually alternative and are related to amendment No. 38. Amendments Nos. 42 to 56, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 38. Amendments Nos. 42, 43, 45, 47, 49, 52 and 53 are cognate. Amendments Nos. 44, 46, 48, 50, 54 and 56 are cognate. Therefore, amendments Nos. 38 to 58, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 12, to delete lines 18 to 25 and substitute the following:

"21.–(1)(a) The Minister may, by direction in writing, require the Council to establish one or more than one committee to advise it on such matters relating to the arts as are specified in the direction, and a committee established pursuant to such a direction is hereafter in this section referred to as a ‘special committee'.

(b) The number of special committees standing established, for the time being, shall not exceed 3.

(c) A special committee shall continue in being for such period as may be specified in the direction pursuant to which it was established.

(d) The Council shall comply with a direction under this subsection.”.

I explained on Committee Stage my reservations about the existing text of section 21 of the Bill. I did not believe that the Arts Council, the traditional arts or the arts in general would be served by ghettoising the traditional arts or by creating what might be seen as a council within a council. I also believe that art is dynamic and that its issues and priorities change from time to time. Policy must be able to respond to the dynamic nature of art and give special attention to the issues that merit it at any given time. It should adjust to changing realities. The Bill, as drafted, is clearly well-intentioned, but I have reached the conclusion that there is a better way.

The formulation I have devised, which is set out in amendment No. 38, allows the Minister of the day to require the Arts Council to establish special committees from time to time or to advise on any specified aspect of the arts. The council will have to take appropriate account of the advice of such a special committee. A maximum of three such special committees may be in existence at any one time. This new structure will allow priorities to be addressed as they develop, without the negative implications of a permanent standing committee structure. Among the first priorities I intend to address through this mechanism is the traditional arts.

The amendment proposed by Deputy Deenihan to amendment No. 38, and amendment No. 39 in the name of Deputy Wall, appear to retain the approach of setting priorities in stone to a greater degree than I consider appropriate. Therefore, I cannot accept these amendments.

I am proposing amendment No. 40 and amendments Nos. 42 to 56, inclusive. These technical amendments flow directly from amendment No. 38, which replaced "standing committees" with "special committees".

Deputy Wall's amendment No. 41 proposes that members of special committees be jointly nominated by the Minister and the Arts Council. I do not believe that this would be workable in practice and I cannot, therefore, accept the amendment.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 38:

In the proposed newsection 21(1)(a), after ‘special committee' on the sixth line, to insert “, one such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, matters of the arts in education, another such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the traditional arts, and a third such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the challenges facing the individual artist in Ireland”.

This is an important section of the Bill and I am glad we have more than an hour to discuss it. The Minister shocked us on Committee Stage, in one sense, when he said he planned to re-examine section 21. I recall that I described his plans as "a seismic shift in policy", as the original proposal had been in gestation for about three or four years. Perhaps the Minister will specify the model on which the original standing committee proposal was based. Where did the idea come from? It is obvious that it was modelled on legislation from another country.

These amendments give us an opportunity to discuss the role of the arts in education, the role of the traditional arts and the role of the individual artist, about which Deputy Michael D. Higgins spoke this morning. The wording of my amendment to amendment No. 38 gives a great deal of flexibility and openness to the Minister. I have proposed the insertion, after "special committee" on the sixth line of the Minister's amendment, of, "one such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, matters of the arts in education, another such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the traditional arts, and a third such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the challenges facing the individual artist in Ireland". The use of the phrase "with reasonable frequency" leaves it open and flexible. The three strands I have included in my amendment need to be mentioned in this Bill in some way, for a number of reasons.

I would like to elaborate on the importance of a special committee on education, with a brief reference to the background to this proposal. I will quote from some of the various reports into education and the arts over the last 60 years. In 1949, Dr. Thomas Bodkin produced a report that highlighted the fact that there was no art instruction in our primary and secondary schools and universities at the time. The 1962 Design in Ireland report came to the conclusion that the Irish schoolchild is visually and artistically among the most under-educated in Europe. In 1979, Ciarán Benson published The Place of the Arts in Irish Education, which contained 119 recommendations and was very critical of the education system at that time. Mr. Benson recommended that the Arts Council should build up a specialist education service and argued that the Minister for Education of the time should establish a consultative committee to monitor the progress made in developing the arts in education. I made a similar suggestion on Committee Stage, when I tried to justify the establishment of such a consultative committee. I am trying to justify it again by citing these examples.

As part of Ireland's contribution to the European music year of 1985, the Arts Council published a report on the provision of music education in Irish schools. The report, Deaf Ears?, by Donald Herron, provided what the Arts Council described as detailed statistical evidence of the scandalous neglect of music in our schools. Only 2.9% of candidates for the leaving certificate in 1985 took the music examination and many of them studied for it outside of school. The Curriculum and Examinations Board's 1985 discussion paper, The Arts in Education, spoke of the indefensible neglect of arts in Irish education. In 1995, Frank Heneghan of the Dublin Institute of Technology initiated the music education national debate, MEND. The debate gave us a further insight into the state of music education in the primary sector and resulted in scathing criticism of what is happening in primary schools.

Dr. Marie McCarthy, who is an expert in this area, published, Passing It On: The Transmission of Music in Irish Culture, in 1999. She made the point that the contradictory images of music in Irish culture bring to the surface many questions about the scope and nature of music education in Ireland. She argued that our fine reputation abroad is based primarily on traditional, popular and, to a lesser degree, classical musicians, whose musical education occurred, for the most part, outside the formal education system, in community settings, private music schools and certain universities.

On Second Stage, I referred at length to the 2000 report of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, which clearly supports Dr. McCarthy's argument. If we look at the statistics in that report on music as a taught subject in second level education, an astounding 48% of single-sex boys' schools make no provision for teaching music at junior certificate level. As if that was not bad enough, 74% of single-sex boys' schools do not offer music at leaving certificate level. These appalling figures are not replicated to the same degree in single-sex girls' schools where some 10% of these schools do not offer music at junior certificate level and 17% do not offer it at leaving certificate level. It shows that despite developments, there are still major deficiencies in our education system.

To return to primary education, despite the aspirations in the new curriculum, music is not seen as a serious subject. In most cases it is used as a form of public relations exercise because it is regarded as a good thing for a school to teach music. The problem is that most teachers are not adequately trained to teach music. There is a great need for in-service training for teachers. There is also a need for a support system, something to which I previously referred in the context of physical education, where, in many cases, a teacher may circulate between a number of schools in an area. Such a system would also work in this context and it would be welcome.

In my home county of Kerry, which is also the home of the Minister, I understand there are only four schools doing music to leaving certificate level. This is indicative of a major deficiency.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers' report stated:

If we don't have some sort of decent arts education we won't identify the creators of the next generation, we won't identify the consumers, we won't find the people who will go out and buy books, who'll buy pictures, who'll go to concerts and the whole cycle is being impeded by this. So I think education is something which we absolutely have to look at.

However, teaching of music at leaving certificate level has improved to some extent. An article by Barra Boydell contained figures which indicated a significant increase in the numbers taking music at higher level; from 1,037 in 1998 to 2,893 in 2001. However, the article stated that, while the numbers have increased, the overall standard of students' entering music at third level has declined. That is an interesting observation.

An emphasis on education runs right through the Arts Council report, the Arts Plan 2002-2006. The Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil adopted this as part of the programme for Government. It has probably already been abandoned, to some extent, because of the decrease in funding required to put it into practice. In one of the sections on art form objectives it was stated that despite recent advances formidable challenges remain. It stressed that there was almost no provision at primary or post primary level to develop people's understanding of architecture, for instance, which is now included in the definition of the arts.

There is also an absence of a positive promotion of dance within education which seriously restricts the development of dance infrastructure. Public knowledge and appreciation of dance is low despite the large numbers taking part in a wide range of dance activities. Similar points were made in regard to education in respect of the visual arts and right across the spectrum. To ensure that the subject of the deficiency of arts in education will be covered it is important that the Minister demonstrates his intent by specifying that the focus of one of the committees will be education.

As the Minister is aware, most of the lobbying for this Bill came from the traditional arts sector. Some 75% of all the correspondence I received is from that sector. It did not come from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann alone, but from many other elements of that diverse sector.

As the Minister is also aware, there were major divisions within the traditional arts sector in respect of what approach to take. Some were against the notion of a standing committee in the arts with provision for making recommendations to the Arts Council and on funding, whereas Comhaltas, in particular, supported it. Both sides had valid points and strong arguments.

As someone who is involved in the traditional arts and who values the contribution they make to the community, I believe funding and support for the traditional arts must be changed. The traditional arts play an important role both culturally, educationally and economically. The Minister made this point on several occasions.

Traditional arts must be properly funded but with the restraints on the Arts Council I do not know if it will be able to fulfil this role. It is not sufficient to say that a certain sum of money should be ring-fenced for that purpose because the provisions of this legislation prohibit it. The Arts Council cannot be directed on how funding is allocated. Will the Minister clarify that matter? Does it just refer to individual applications for grant aid or do the provisions in the Bill give the Minister the authority to direct the Arts Council to ring-fence x amount of its money for the traditional arts?

I am aware that Comhaltas made a submission to the Minister seeking that it be treated as a unique entity, a form of national institution to be financed separately to the Arts Council. It asked that special provision be made for it.

I welcome the departure in the grants allocation of Bord Fáilte. Kenmare fleadh ceoil got a grant and some other fleadh ceoil in Kerry, I think it was Milltown, was also grant-aided. No doubt the Minister probably helped in some way. In the past fleadhanna ceoil across the country were generally ignored by national agencies. It was said they had access to other sources of funding which is not necessarily always the case.

The Dorgan report made clear that there was a view both inside and outside traditional arts circles that the Department has a role to play, at the very least in increasing supports for traditional arts. If it can be done by way of grant aid through local authorities or some other means, I suggest the Minister should do so.

The other part of my amendment relates to the challenge facing individual artists in this country. Deputy Michael D. Higgins made a very strong case in that regard in his earlier contribution to this debate. Individual artists are the linchpin of creativity and innovation in the arts and hold a unique position within the arts infrastructure. A book entitledThe Creative Imperative identified a wide range of specific problems facing individual artists. The report made 31 recommendations, many of which address the economic status of artists. It recommended substantial investment, not so much in direct subvention to artists as in the institutional infrastructure for the arts. That emphasis was reflected in many of the submissions we received on this Bill in terms of the obvious neglect of support for individual artists.

A special committee should be established to review, on a regular basis, the problems facing individual artists, whether in relation to social welfare, to which Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred, housing or whatever. Reference was made earlier to the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, who introduced tax-free status for artists. While that is very helpful, more is needed. Very few individual artists are making a good living out of the arts. Many actors are currently out of work as a result of cut-backs in many of the production companies and the discontinuation of tours. A number of centres around the country are either being forced to close their doors or are facing the threat of closure. Individual artists will suffer as a result.

There is an absence of work-space for individual artists throughout the country. Rental of accommodation is becoming very expensive. Provision should be made to make units available to artists free of charge as far as possible. I am currently involved in a project of that nature which is endeavouring to build units for artists and craft workers, to be provided free of charge to the individuals concerned.

To sum up, I believe my amendment will have no adverse effect on the shape of the Bill which the Minister has brought forward and I strongly urge him to accept it. If it is not accepted, I will put it to a vote as I believe its inclusion is critical to the Bill. I have been quite reasonable in relation to earlier amendments. This important amendment will give reassurance to the education sector, the traditional arts sector and individual artists that their needs will be catered for. I will press the amendment.

I ask the Minister to agree to these amendments. In an earlier reference to placing reports before the House and in the Oireachtas Library, I referred to a situation which one would hope will never arise in terms of the removal of a member of the board. In the overall context of the representations which have been made, some appropriate provision should be included in this Bill. Deputy Deenihan has already referred to many of the issues. Education is obviously a major factor in relation to development of the arts. If that is not taken into account at primary and secondary level, we cannot expect to reap the rewards thereafter. The inclusion of a provision for the establishment of a special committee in that regard would demonstrate ongoing progress in the development of the arts in the educational system. That would represent a major enhancement of the Bill.

At a recent meeting which I attended with people from the various branches of the arts, there was general consensus on the importance of educational development. Many of the problems facing individual artists were outlined very eloquently by Deputy Michael D. Higgins in his earlier contribution to this debate. That impression of the realities of the situation is borne out by the many representations which I and other Deputies have received. We know about the problems being encountered by touring companies, including the major difficulty in relation to public liability insurance which makes it difficult for theatres and halls in towns and rural areas to open their doors, quite apart from the lack of funding for such tours. Some 17 such theatres were established during Deputy Higgins's term as Minister with responsibility for the arts. Many of them are no longer fulfilling their intended function in the development of the arts in rural areas because of funding problems and the dramatic increase in the cost of public liability insurance. In relation to the traditional arts, there should be provision in this Bill to take account of those problems.

The wide-ranging representations we received were not only from within Ireland but also from interested groups in England and even America, who were concerned for the development of Irish arts. That concern should be reflected in the Bill before the House. Account should be taken of the work of local authorities, especially the county arts officers. While I am not referring to the present Minister, I am concerned that, on the basis of the existing legislation, future Ministers may not set up committees – they may just leave it to the Arts Council. I would strongly prefer to have provision in the Bill to ensure that committees are actually set up in relation to educational development and the promotion of the arts through local authorities. That would represent a move forward.

As public representatives, we should give a sense of direction, based on the representations made to us on this Bill at various stages up to recent days. We should show that we recognise the need for special committees in relation to the traditional Irish arts, local authorities and education. If the Minister accepts these amendments, we will have done a great day's work in terms of ensuring a future mechanism in which all representative bodies can go forward, with access to the relevant committees and the Arts Council. I hope the Minister will reflect on this and will agree to provide such committees, during the debate on the Bill here or in the Seanad.

I applaud the Minister in his magnanimity and generosity in incorporating so many amendments, particularly those from the Opposition. Of all the amendments tabled, the amendment to section 21 is the most important. I recall that the majority of members' contributions on Committee Stage to this section related to the section, as initiated, being far too strictured. Given that inexperience has been reflected in the Statute Book for 30 years, when examining this legislation it was necessary that there would be a high degree of flexibility in the legislative framework through which all the arts would operate. I note people are rowing back from that. The Minister deserves credit for the amendment he tabled, which provides for the issues on which the previous two Members focused, which it is recognised require attention.

Those two Members would probably agree that it is not in the interests of the arts generally for specific provision for them to be included in legislation. The flexibility now provided by the amendment is a much better solution. When the issue of the traditional arts, and arts and education, which is possibly an ongoing and longer term issue, is dealt with in the near future, there will not be a need for a standing committee specific to those subjects going forward. That is why this amendment is important. Section 21, as initiated, was somewhat damaging because it was not sufficiently flexible. All of us have recognised that Acts must be flexible, and have the capacity to cope with change.

Amendment No. 38 (1) (b) is ambiguous. It states “The number of special committees standing established, for the time being, shall not exceed 3.” What is meant by the words “for the time being” and to what extent is there scope for that number to be extended? I do not understand the necessity for the inclusion of those words. The Minister might consider deleting them.

It appears the standing committees would be under the direction of the Minister. To what extent has the Arts Council the scope to establish special committees or would the establishment of such committees have to come under the direction of the Minister?

It is well documented how much attention and energy was devoted to the debate on this section. I am glad a good solution has been arrived at. It will stand to all art forms, particularly the traditional arts. It would not do them any service to be sidelined and come under the remit of a subcommittee of a council. It is much better that flexibility is maintained. I applaud the Minister in arriving at this solution.

Having been in the Chair for most the debate on this Bill, I am glad to be able to speak on it and declare the interest I have in this area. I have a BMus, MPhil, Lpcl, Pgcl and four grade eights. I have gone through the system in terms of music facilities and I am aware of where the deficiencies are in the facilities, particularly in relation to music arts. In terms of the traditional arts, I can play the reel, jig or hornpipe as good as anybody. I acknowledge the special role the traditional arts play in many aspects of Irish life and I understand the request made in regard to the original Bill that they be given a special status.

The Minister's has moved towards the establishment of a maximum of three committees, although I would not have put a figure on the number of subcommittees because the same people would not be involved in the subcommittees. We could also branch out from that number without putting a finite figure on the numbers of subcommittees in place. I am concerned that the subcommittees would have teeth. I am looking forward to a time when the arts can have a cross-departmental Estimate. Arts and sport work together at present because they are under the remit of the Minister but, as all Members who contributed have said, there is a strong interaction between the arts and education. Officials of the Arts Council might talk to officials in the Department of Education and Children, but until that is backed by funding, it is only talk. The subcommittees must have a finite amount of time to discuss a particular aspect of a problem. Unlike the chairperson and the Members here not being able to contribute following two consecutive contributions, it should be possible to return to any issue as often as is necessary.

I do not agree with Deputy Deenihan about putting names on those three subcommittees. I could speak all day on the issues they could examine such as access to music for those with disabilities, music therapy and education, but where would one start and end? There is a gap in that area which would take up a good deal of the time of a subcommittee. There is also the issues of local authorities, performers and the traditional arts. There is the issue of what is being done in this area in Northern Ireland and what are we doing here, which in itself could be the subject of the work of a subcommittee.

An issue I would like to pursue is the provision of arts for those in the 0 to 5 year old age group and how the arts impinge on their personal development. I would like the issue of the exposure of the arts to children to be explored. I mean the basic arts of a mother singing to a child, asking a child to clap or getting a child to interact to help the child's physical development and to progress the child's rhythmic and co-ordination development. I have studies which examine the issue of juvenile delinquency and how it can be tackled through the use of the arts. I could spend from tonight until tomorrow morning putting titles on issues that the subcommittees could examine, but the danger of doing that is that one would restrict the potential of these subcommittees.

It is important that these subcommittees shall be established, that they shall have teeth and that they shall interact in a meaningful way with other Departments or with those people who are involved in the particular subject. Instead of having a glossy report that we can put on a shelf – we will have a number of those from the deliberations of our committee – I would prefer to have action. Much action could take place in terms of the arts in Ireland. Many issues could be addressed and need to be addressed. We have some very good artists and they have come through despite the system in many cases and with the help of the system in other cases. I could identify a fair number of gaps if the Minister is stuck for titles for the subcommittees, but the important point is that they should be given the necessary powers.

The original section 21 was a reflection of the scandalous neglect of the traditional arts. An attempt was made to eradicate the perception of elitism in terms of funding from the Arts Council in its previous existence up to whenever the provisions of this Bill will come into effect and the frustration that was expressed by those involved in that traditional arts, especially. They raised the lack of funding for many years and there did not seem to be the political will to tackle it. We have before us a Bill which intends to tackle this problem and even with the change the Minister is proposing, judging from the debates here and in committee, the political will seems to exist to ensure that the bias that existed in terms of funding is removed. The bias towards bureaucracy in the arts is also dealt with.

I did not agree with the initial idea of a standing committee because I thought it was not sufficient to replace one bias with another, which is what would have happened. The only section of the arts which could make a recommendation in terms of funding under the existing Bill was the traditional arts and that was wrong. We need some kind of guarantee that the Arts Council will address these deficiencies and the basic discrimination against the traditional arts. Deputy Deenihan's formulation would have ensured that this would happen. It is a pity the Minister's amendment did not come to us on Committee Stage because we could have thrashed it out properly and come up with the best possible wording. We could have dealt with the points that were raised, such as whether there are to be three or five committees or whether there should be a maximum term for these committees. No term is mentioned, so we could have a committee existing until kingdom come.

The Minister's amendment and that of Deputy Deenihan should ensure that the special committees will mend some of the rifts that have developed among the traditional arts and artists and that we manage to address the issue of how traditional and contemporary arts can co-exist and interact. When we were dealing with this last month, one of the Deputies who contributed mentioned "Riverdance" which is an example of the interaction of contemporary and traditional arts. It does not fall solely into the traditional arts category; if one were to say to some people that it did, they would frown.

The terms of the committees are not restricted to any one topic in Deputy Deenihan's proposal. It allows for those committees to deal with a number of issues but provides that once in a while they must come back to addressing the two or three issues mentioned – the arts in education, the traditional arts and the artist. If this amendment is accepted, it will result in the only mention of the artist in the entire Arts Bill. I do not know whether this says anything about the future Arts Council, but I hope it does not.

My amendment, which the Minister is backing, seeks to ensure that no standing committee alone would have power over funding. One standing committee should not have this power; if anything, all three should have it. I ask the Minister to accept Deputy Deenihan's amendment because it would at least ensure that in the future the traditional arts will not be sidelined and receive only 1% of the funding, which was all they enjoyed until now from the Arts Council. If the traditional arts are mentioned in the Bill and associated with a special committee, the Arts Council will have a responsibility to listen and take heed of the views of those in the traditional arts and this would be reflected in the funding it grants. If no mention is made of the traditional arts things could be different. We must remember that the Arts Council is politically appointed. I am not saying that the Minister would be responsible for this, but a future Arts Council might restart the neglect of the traditional arts which has occurred over the past 30 or 40 years.

After what Deputy Ó Snodaigh said earlier I became concerned that there might be a slight gap in the legislation, and the chief parliamentary counsel confirmed this. On that basis I will be proposing to insert, in page 7, line 44 of the Bill, the words "and the chairperson" after "members". This is to ensure the Bill does what I always intended it to do, which is to limit the chairperson's term of office to two consecutive five-year terms. I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for bringing this matter to our attention.

In reply to Deputy O'Malley's point, the words "for the time being" mean "currently." The Minister will prescribe the period for which the committee will sit. Various suggestions have been made on what the committees should deal with. One commitment I have given is that one of the committees will deal with the traditional arts. This is of immense importance. As I have consistently pointed out, I do not believe we have had a coherent policy on the traditional arts or that they have been adequately funded. Obviously, the new committee will be charged with formulating a policy for the traditional arts, but the implementation of the policy will be a matter for the Arts Council. I have also stated consistently that funding from the Arts Council will be entirely independent of the Minister of the day. This is to pre serve the arm's length principle and to ensure the independence of the council.

It is appropriate for me to say at this point that in 1934 Daniel Corkery, who was dissatisfied with post-colonial literature in English and felt that it did not reflect his Ireland, pointed an accusing finger at the crowd attending the Munster hurling final and asked who spoke for the people there. In subsequent years the Abbey Theatre spoke for them, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann spoke for them and continues to speak for them today, together with other people involved in the traditional arts. I must say how impressed I was, on a recent visit to Brú Ború in Cashel, County Tipperary, by the cultural experience, which has to be seen to be believed.

Absolutely.

The contribution of Comhaltas is something that should be acknowledged by everybody in this House and I, for one, readily acknowledge it. I regard the traditional arts as a gentle flower to be nurtured, which should not be transplanted to any dark part of the garden. It is in that context that I have proposed that we should set up a committee for a specified period to formulate a policy for the traditional arts, which will be handed to the Arts Council for implementation. I hope this measure will resolve the difficulties experienced by the traditional arts. I have no doubt but that the traditional arts will have the goodwill of the Arts Council – its director, chairperson and members – but the question of funding will be a matter for the council. It is of immense importance that a coherent policy for the traditional arts arises from this proposal. The world is constantly in a state of flux. Since it is in a state of flux, there can be no doubt but that the arts world is in an even more accelerated state of flux. Therefore, it is of considerable importance to deal with issues as they arise. This cannot be done by having standing committees set in stone. It is of considerable importance that when issues arise there is a mechanism to deal with them. By providing in the legislation that the committees will be of limited duration and may change from time to time, we are inserting the kind of flexibility which will enable us to deal with these issues. This is something which will receive a general welcome in the arts sector, which is the way forward.

It is of immense importance also that there is freedom of choice for the Arts Council and artists. I do not think creative talent can be expressed if we impose rigidity or insist on matters being inscribed in stone, never to be washed away. Therefore, the measures undertaken in section 21 will be of ultimate assistance to the arts sector. I am strongly of the view that the provisions as drafted were extremely well intentioned. They were a clear recognition that the traditional arts did not have a coherent policy and that they were inadequately resourced. To that extent the original proposals provoked a necessary debate inside and outside the House. The debate, through the contributions of Opposition spokespersons and others, including people outside the House, has been a constructive one. It has served the traditional arts well and the traditional arts will be the ultimate benefactors of that debate.

I express my appreciation to everyone who contributed to the debate which was conducted in good faith and in a civilised and constructive fashion. This is something which is appreciated by everyone with a knowledge of this area. We will proceed from here, I hope, in unison, not just in relation to the traditional arts but in relation to other art forms.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response. I say to Deputies O'Malley and Keaveney that obviously they did not read my amendment. It will not limit a future Minister to any kind of straitjacket approach. There is sufficient flexibility within the amendment. I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for recognising that fact. The amendment I have proposed is a very sensible one.

Section 22 provides the council with the authority to establish committees. There is very little difference between sections 22 and 21. Section 22 states that the council may establish committees other than committees to which section 21 applies. Section 21 does not apply to any committee at the moment. It does not mention committees, therefore, there is a contradiction. Perhaps the Minister will consider this aspect in the Seanad.

Unless the issue of education is addressed now, I am convinced there will be more reports from the Arts Council on education in the years ahead. I am not confident the issue will be addressed unless it is specified. The wording in my amendment gives the Minister flexibility to put in place these special committees with reasonable frequency.

This is an important part of the Bill.