Arts Plan: Statements

I am delighted to be present and I would like to acknowledge Senator Mac Conghail's work in organising this debate. I served in the House for four years in the 1980s and I always found it a creative place. It is where I learned about politics and legislation and I had the opportunity to introduce a number of initiatives. I would also like to acknowledge Senator Mac Conghail's work in briefing other Members. I am sure they are wiser about the arts than they were last week and that is positive for the arts.

I am glad a large number of people involved in the arts are present in the Visitors Gallery, including Ms Pat Moylan, chairman of the Arts Council and Mr. John McGrane of Ulster Bank who is with Mr. Willie White, artistic director of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. Ms Tania Banotti of the National Campaign for the Arts and Theatre Forum is also in attendance. They are all welcome and I hope we will have a good engagement and that some new ideas will emerge.

When I was appointed by the Taoiseach to this brief, I resolved that I would try to make the arts and culture part of our national script. In other words, it would be a central and essential part of the narrative about the character of a new, different, changed and better Ireland. A country like ours today survives, grows and prospers on foundations built on the talent and ability of its people. Human ability, resilience and creativity are key. The more they are developed, the better we are. Modern goods and services require high value added input, some of which comes from technology and financial capital, but more comes from people and their ability to innovate, think and be creative.

The process of stimulation through music, drama, literature, films, works of art and the delight in design, in architecture, in crafts, enlarges a country's capacity to be reflective, interested, dynamic and bold. Dynamism in the arts and culture, I believe, also leads to dynamism in a nation — a kind of national reawakening. When more children get access to the possibilities of art and creativity, it is not the art alone that they learn; it is the art of living, thinking for themselves and creating. They may never become an artist or a dancer or a designer, but in whatever job and in whichever walk of life they choose, they will carry an idea that is not just about commerce, law, engineering or medicine but about what makes the ordinary special and the extraordinary possible.

That is why I am putting arts in education at the heart of my ministerial objectives. I have met the Minister for Education and Skills to discuss a range of ideas. These have been further elaborated out by our advisers and a team headed up by the assistant secretaries of the two Departments is now working on those ideas. When young people can visit museums and see great works of art, they take some of the inspiration with them. A nation that cares about arts and culture and its youth will not be a better nation only; it will be a more successful one because arts and culture, more than any other programmes of Government, worthy and necessary though those are, can make people think, see things differently, and understand where the other comes from. As my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills says, we need to teach young people to think and not just to remember,

The next five years can be an exciting time for the arts and culture sector. The combination with the Irish language and heritage responsibility makes eminent sense and I look forward to seeking and building on the self-evident synergies between the three areas. Over the next five years, the Government will seek to work to maintain employment levels in the sector; increase visitor numbers to the cultural institutions to 3.5 million per annum in 2011 and grow that number further next year — so far this year those numbers are up about 4% on last year's record numbers; enhance engagement with the arts from the community up, with particular reference to young people; continue to support our national cultural institutions; build on Ireland's cultural brand through the work of my Department's agency, Culture Ireland, especially in the US and the BRIC countries, and during our Presidency of the EU; finalise development work on key regional arts and culture infrastructure; complete refurbishment of the National Gallery historic wings; ensure that key arts and culture venues in major centres throughout the country remain in business; maximise the return from section 481 film production relief; leverage the impact of our expertise in the animation business and build on the success of Brown Bag Films, Cartoon Saloon and JAM Media among others; in the context of our jobs strategy, move forward on implementing the recommendations of the creative capital report on the film and television production sector, which I published during the summer; maintain our competitive position in film and television production internationally to drive inward investment opportunities in co-operation with the IDA and the industrial development agencies; build on the success of the regional festivals programme in 2011 as part of an integrated cultural and regional tourism drive; maximise the impact of the 1901 and 1911 census digitisation project in conjunction with the tourism agencies, and advance the proposal to publish the 1926 census on-line; build on the business links established through Culture Ireland's promotion programme in China, the US and UK; address economic reputation damage through cultural promotional work and maintain our prominent position internationally, particularly in theatre, music, dance and traditional music; reorganise and achieve economies of scale across the sectors through shared services' models; maintain regional venues and touring programmes within available funding; leverage the City of Literature designation for the entire country; and work on an exciting commemorative programme for 2016. These are just some of the initiatives which the Government will pursue over the next five years. I have a number of ideas that I will try to pursue and Senators will no doubt inform me further and provide further challenges.

We must achieve all of this in the context of reduced Government expenditure in order to meet the EU and IMF targets. In doing this, we are building on our natural strengths in the arts. These are brand recognition and quality; scale; an inherent capacity for renewal; and the fact that arts and culture are now a recognised part of the economic mix. Our stock is high internationally in the arts, culture and film sector. For example, the value of column inches generated by our cultural ambassadors in the last 12 months is put at €20 million worth of advertising because they were all positive column inches. We must build on that and leverage the impact of our world class artists. We must work together with tourism and enterprise agencies, and each opportunity internationally is potentially a selling opportunity for our country. We host the EU Presidency in 2013 and that is a potential audience of 550 million people. We should bring the Imagine Ireland experience to Europe in 2013.

There are considerable opportunities for the film and audiovisual sector. The Government recognises this as an important economic sector and an internationally traded one. I published Creative Capital, the five year development strategy for the sector, earlier this year and I have put the implementation committee in place already. We should build on the successes of recent years and work to maintain hard won competitiveness and craft reputation. Technology opportunities should be exploited. The web hosting, data centre and high speed international broadband infrastructure should also be leveraged. A closer alignment between writing and film talent might bring even more benefits. Our film festivals should become world class.

International partnership and collaboration too is full of possibilities. There has been a tendency to undersell ourselves here. To give a few examples, the National Gallery is in the top 50 most visited art galleries in the world. In the visitors' leagues internationally, it is ahead of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris. The Irish Museum of Modern Art lies ahead of the Whitney in New York and of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Collectively, cultural institutions here had more visitors in 2009 than the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, placing us in the top eight of the most visited museums and galleries in the world. That is a remarkable statement about what we have. It indicates clearly that we have something to bring to international partners.

If the number of visitors to the Book of Kells is included, we would probably be in the top five in the world. That is quite an achievement for a small island nation on the periphery of Europe. In sports terms that is not a standing start. An exciting range of possibilities include further US and EU linkages; the possible development of partnerships with the private sector; further academic developments, including joint research projects, internships, programmes and summer schools; the increased promotion of Dublin as a creative city via initiatives such as culture night and opportunities to engage the public in cultural life with the potential to further promote this city and Ireland as a destination for cultural tourists.

One of our specific commitments in the programme for Government is to expand the culture night concept and I have set the wheels in motion on that already. I have a strong sense that we can achieve this by the designation of St. Patrick's Day as the International Day of Irish Culture and build on solid foundations already in place. I hope that all public representatives will support culture night 2011 this coming Friday evening throughout the country.

Literature is our primary cultural calling card and our writers and dramatists introduce us on the international stage. Thanks to Government funding through the Arts Council and Culture Ireland, we are now also known internationally on dance, contemporary music, visual arts, and many other art forms. In the digital world, the customer is just 0.8 seconds away anywhere on the globe. There are novel partnerships across the technology platforms which are possible here. With imagination and technological knowledge we can bring our collections and our artists to entire new markets.

In this regard we can consider the success of the on-line census. If we got even 1% of the 200 million on-line hits to those pages visiting this country, we would increase annual visitor numbers by 33%. We can imagine the value of placing the collections of the National Library of Ireland at the disposal of every school child in the country. More global business is being done on the web and we must be there in an imaginative and compelling way. We must have a centre of literary excellence in Dublin, and I am exploring a number of possibilities in that regard. We have the content for this beyond doubt and with a clever use of the existing stock of public buildings, we can accommodate it in a manner appropriate its importance.

My vision for this is very simple. It should be a place where all the public and visitors could encounter writers of the past, engage with writers of the present and encourage writers of the future. It will be a place in which our rich literary heritage would be brought to life — an embarkation point and launching pad for the literary visitor and a pantheon of Irish writers. There is no doubt that we are a world class artistic and creative hub.

In the past two years, Irish artists continued to make a major impact on the global stage. Five Oscar nominations brought international focus and acclaim to the Irish animation sector, with Richard Baneham, a graduate of Ballyfermot College, winning an Academy Award for special effects for "Avatar". Joan Bergin won a third Emmy for her costume design on "The Tudors". The outstanding Irish documentary "His and Hers" won the best cinematography award at the Sundance Film Festival. Michael Fassbender from Killarney won best actor at the Venice Film Festival and "Albert Nobbs", starring Glenn Close and produced in Dublin by Alan Moloney, with the screenplay written by John Banville, is opening the Los Angeles Film Festival.

The Villagers rock group made an international breakthrough with their nomination for the prestigious Mercury music prize. Colm Tóibín'sBrooklyn won the Costa Novel Award and Colm McCann won the IMPAC for Let the Great World Spin. Paul Murray’s novel, Skippy Dies, was selected by Time magazine as one of the top three novels of 2010, and it was on the holiday reading this year of US President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Room, by Emma Donoghue, was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Award.

In its top ten list of theatre productions for 2010,The New York Times included Druid’s production of Enda Walsh’s “Penelope”. With the same production, Enda Walsh and Druid also won a third Fringe First in a row at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The New York Times selected two Irish books in their top five fiction list for 2010 — Emma Donoghue’s Room and William Trevor’s Selected Stories. This year Pat Kinnevan enthralled the Edinburgh Festival with a great fusion of dance and acting talent, and I was delighted to be there to witness it.

Arts and culture spans so many disciplines. There is not a sector of the arts that cannot contribute to our growth and redefinition as a nation. We must develop a particular model of government working with the cultural sector that is both successful and distinctively Irish, and which recognises the constraints on the public purse. That model is a mixed new economy model combining public funding with private enterprise, philanthropy, subsidy and the box office together with new media and technology.

Critically, the Arts Council operates as an arm's length body, so the State is placed in the position of doing what it can do well, creating the right policy conditions and funding, and not what it has no business doing, controlling the arts. The simplicity of this model is that public subsidy permits risk-taking in creativity. A new breed of entrepreneurial leaders in the arts world have shown that art of the highest quality is compatible with sound financial discipline. The small team that delivered Dublin Contemporary has gathered incredible international press coverage fromLe Monde, El Pais and so forth, with praise for their creativity, innovation and delivery, and the public subsidy produces a return not just in creativity but in economic activity and social impact.

Taking into account economic multipliers, the value added that was dependent on the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2008 was €11.8 billion or 7.6% of GNP, according to DKM. Cultural tourism is a key element of Ireland's tourism industry, again according to DKM. The list of top visitor attractions is dominated by natural and built heritage, and in addition festivals and musical and other events attract major numbers of attendees. In 2008, some 3.5 million overseas visitors engaged in cultural or historical visits, which represents 43% of total visitors, and they spent €2.3 billion, which represents 56% of the total overseas visitor spend. As Senators know, a large number of the tourists who come to Ireland engage in cultural pursuits. We only have to look at Kildare Street on a day such as today to see the large numbers of people going into the National Library and the National Museum. People visit them in greater numbers because they are free of charge, but our cultural venues bring people into Dublin and that is one of our great advantages. A total of €3.03 billion or 2% of GNP is at least partly dependent on overseas cultural tourism, and domestic cultural tourism would add significantly to that. In 2008, some 73,000 jobs were dependent on cultural tourism, which represents 3.4% of the workforce. There is a significant showcase impact from Irish culture, which raises the profile of the country and has a substantial economic benefit, most directly in tourism.

There is a strong regional aspect to the arts, culture and creative sectors as cultural activity is strongly rooted in locality. Remoteness from larger metropolitan areas is less of a disadvantage than in some other sectors, and in some cases it is an enhancing factor. This is most obvious in the area of events and festivals and the related cultural tourism. Examination of the most popular visitor attractions and events in Ireland in recent years points to a range of locations around the country, including many along the western seaboard. For instance, the third most popular visitor attraction in Ireland is the Cliffs of Moher.

Total Exchequer expenditure on the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2011 is €150 million. The 2008 equivalent was €220 million. Against this, direct Exchequer revenue from the arts, culture and creative sectors in 2008 was approximately €1 billion. The growth rate of the creative sector in Ireland has been well above the European average, indicating the importance of the creative industries for overall Irish economic performance. The new enterprise model for the economy recognises the vital importance of the arts, culture and creative sectors and places strong emphasis on creativity, the accumulation of knowledge and the development of ideas and designs as well as the application of technology.

The combined arts, culture and creative sector is one of the fastest growing globally. It represents 7% of global GDP and is growing at 10% per annum. Likewise, cultural tourism is expected to experience growth of 15% per annum. The culture-related sectors form one of the key growth areas that Ireland must tap into for economic and employment opportunities in the next decade if it is to recover from the current severe recession. Furthermore, on a global scale, the culture-related sectors are expected to be a significantly greater part of the international economy in the future, and Ireland must make its presence felt in these sectors if the overall economy is to be a competitive leader in the future. I have no doubt that those in the sector have the capacity and creativity to make that impact.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the House. I will listen attentively to what Senators say and my officials will take notes. I hope our discussion on the arts will add to the overall narrative. It is important that new ideas are listened to, accommodated and implemented if possible. Looking at the profile of the people in the House, I believe there are great opportunities to come up with some really good ideas. Many Senators have worked in the arts in the past, and the Seanad can really prove itself in the arts in this term.

Go raibh maith agat a Leas-Chathaoirligh, agus fáiltím roimh an Aire. Tréaslaím leis as a bheith ceaptha mar Aire dos na healaíona sa tír. Chomh maith leis sin, tugaim faoi deara an méid oibre atá déanta aige go dtí seo. Is beag cúinne den tír seo nár thug sé cuairt air. Tá sé ag éisteacht, agus tá sé sin thar a bheith tábhachtach. Tá sé ag dul i gcomhairle leis na heagrais agus leis an bpobal go náisiúnta agus ar leibhéal áitiúil freisin. Níl aon amhras faoi ná gur seo an treo is fearr le tabhairt faoi obair na n-ealaíon.

I welcome the Minister to the Seanad and compliment him on the manner in which he has approached his Ministry to date. I note he has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland. As well as negotiating and consulting at national level, he has been particularly active in dealing with organisations and communities at the local level. I compliment him on his presentation. It is clear he has captured the essence of the potential for the arts in Ireland. I also praise his officials, who in my experience have always been accessible, encouraging and helpful. We have developed a unique partnership for the arts with Deputy Deenihan as the Minister, the Departments, all the Senators and the people in the Visitors Gallery as well. I thank those who provided presentations and submissions in advance of today. I have never noticed that happening before. It is possible that some of the credit goes to Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, to whom I pay tribute for the leadership he has provided in that regard.

I have always felt that misunderstandings can be avoided in any area where there is consultation and where partnership develops. I must say I get quite excited at the manner in which the model is developing. I do not think it is accidental that our discussion is taking place in advance of the forthcoming budget, and I am sure the Minister understands the importance of that as well. Each Senator here, based on his or her experience, and most of us having taken soundings from the greater arts world, will be in a position to help the Minister so that, when he goes forward to make a case on behalf of the arts, he does so with an extensive and comprehensive view.

The Minister touched on a number of particularly important points. He did not focus on any one specialist area but endeavoured to encompass them all. He gave statistics that are exceptionally compelling at budget time, and they show clearly that at a time of economic challenge it is often cultural activity that provides, cosmetically and otherwise, a remedial response or an antidote to the economic difficulties. If we consider the depth of the economic problem that we have in that manner, thinking in terms of the spirit of the people, of creativity and of how we bring cohesion of effort, there is no doubt that the arts and cultural activity play an important role. As stated by the Minister, we have so many gems at our disposal, including the Abbey Theatre and all other cultural institutions on this island.

I would like now to set out for Members an experience, in a world other than the national institutions, which brought home to me the potential that exists for us to bring about an identity of our own which, incidentally, is strongly recognised internationally and is, therefore, a direct conduit with tourism. Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, with which I presume most Members are familiar, was held recently in Cavan. More than 12,000 performers of all age groups took part in the event. Of particular significance, however, was that 300,000 people attended it. For those thinking of that figure in terms of seats in the Dáil, if we could bring them all together, it would mean ten seats in the Dáil. There is a political issue involved here.

Some €34.9 million was generated at last year's fleadh. That is an official statistic from Fáilte Ireland following a survey. It is estimated that €40 million will be made this year. It is important we bear in mind the economic advantages of the arts. There is a more important advantage in the arts, as with sports. Members will recall the event held in Merrion Square following the football final — I regret I must bring this up now but I am sure the Minister will understand — and the power it had to energise people, allowing all other problems to fade into the background. That is also true in relation to the arts.

Young people in particular are the ones who will have the energy for a new Ireland. They are the ones who will take risks and provide leadership. I thank the Minister for coming to the House today and for this approach, which gives particular significance to Seanad Éireann. What will come out of this debate today is further dialogue. It will no longer be a case of them and us but one of all of us together, working for a single common cause, namely, the arts world, cultural activities and so on. I wish the Minister good luck in his efforts. If he requires further backup, we are all here to help him.

I am delighted to welcome the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, to the House. It is hoped everyone in the Visitors Gallery realises what a hardworking and energetic man he is. While not wishing to be too gushing and pathetic, we know from his weekly schedule, which is made available to us, the amount of territory he covers and the sheer energy he brings to this portfolio. We must all be encouraged by the fact that he is the man in the job. I would also like to acknowledge Senator MacConghail's efforts in bringing the committed campaign for the arts people to meet with us last night. I am new to all of this. That presentation was inspiring. One of my colleagues went so far as to suggest they go on tour with their presentation. If they could go on tour to all the councils and manage to present to the arts officers and various county and city managers, it would resonate with them.

I am delighted this debate is starting in the Seanad. The Seanad has an important role to play in the arts because we, more than our colleagues in the Dáil, have an opportunity to debate the issue here. It can be easy to forget about the arts, in particular in difficult times such as those in which we now find ourselves. However, to do so would, in my view, be short-sighted and unwise. As Government Seanad spokesperson on arts and culture, and as someone lucky enough to have grown up in a home and community fortunate enough to be involved in the arts, I am strongly committed to the artistic community.

The arts represent our artistic soul, for which we are globally recognised, and a field in which we can as a nation invest and benefit if we do so in a strategic manner. It is important to keep this in mind in any debate on the arts. The arts is often wrongly viewed as a drain on resources. However, investing wisely in selected events can, in my view, work to augment our tourism sector and ensure great returns. The arts is completely complementary and intrinsically linked to other vital money making sectors in the country. One of the main reasons tourists visit Ireland, in particular American tourists, is our vibrant arts sector. Our books, plays, festivals and works of art are renowned across the world. We must ensure we are working to get the most out of these and to ensure our talent is celebrated and nurtured through a fully rounded education within which the arts plays a role.

I am particularly passionate about the contribution which the visual arts can make to the lives of those with disabilities. It is well known that art enriches the lives of those who appreciate it. For people with disabilities, that enrichment is even greater. Research has consistently shown that visual arts can enrich the lives of those with disabilities, in particular people with mental difficulties. I have had the pleasure of experiencing in a personal capacity the benefits the Lundbeck arts awards bring to this area. Visual arts, with the added competitive element, brings a renewed sense of self worth and self esteem to people who, for a variety of reasons, find it difficult to cope with the complexities of modern living — but for the grace of God go so many of us.

I know that there are many other organisations across the length and breadth of the country doing similar great work. There are a number of challenges facing the arts sector, including fewer resources, difficulty for personnel in finding seasonal work and venues across the country adapting to new tastes. However, the arts has always prided itself on being creative with money. The best art tends to come in times such as these. I believe the State has a role to play in allocating funding wisely and ensuring that key projects across the nation go ahead. The arts sector needs to have confidence that politicians are behind it. As Seanad spokesperson for the arts, culture and Gaeltacht affairs I would like to make it abundantly clear that I intend to support the arts and to act at every opportunity as a sounding board for issues pertaining to the arts.

We face challenges but we also have a number of opportunities. Turbulent times always present opportunities. Rent is relatively low and new spaces are popping up throughout cities and towns. New drama and literature collections are appearing in villages, towns and cities. An opportunity I have previously highlighted is that of acquiring the site of the Central Bank for use by the arts. I know the Minister has been actively working on that idea and it is hoped we will get that site from the clutches of the Bank of Ireland. I believe this would be a magnificent boost for the arts and would underscore its importance to the type of nation we are trying to rebuild. That is to my mind what this debate is about, namely, highlighting the importance of the arts in the context of the type of nation we aspire to be. As such, the Seanad has played an important role in allowing this debate to go ahead, thus highlighting that our arts and culture sector are more than just the sum of their parts. We still have at our disposal the vital ingredients to continue our internationally recognised prowess in this sector. The protection of the arts needs to be seen as a statement of intent. It serves to show that Ireland has learned to treasure its artistic soul. As long as I am a Member of the Seanad, I will continue to support and speak out for this sector to the greatest of my ability.

I wish to share time with Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell.

I, too, welcome the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, to the Chamber for his first visit here as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs. I am aware of the Minister's great commitment to and knowledge of the arts and of his personal contribution in that regard, in particular in respect of the literary arts.

I have been working professionally in the arts for more than 20 years and this is the most critical time for our community and the lives of our citizens. In this Republic everything seems to be up for grabs, including our sovereignty, our health system, our education system and our values as a nation. Everybody is trying to live and survive in the short term and somehow make sense of the long-term strategy that might get us to a more healthy and prosperous place. I believe that one of the reasons the Taoiseach nominated me to the Seanad was to provide a view, through the lens of our arts and culture community, to any debate on nationhood and our society. This is one such time.

Creativity in imagination is what the arts community can offer. We can do this by ensuring we are part of the debate around the future of our Republic particularly in areas such as innovation, enterprise, jobs, health, community and, in particular, education. The Minister knows the facts. For €65 million from the Arts Council and €42 million from the local authority, the arts is one of weaves that keep our communities alive and vibrant. Last year, 66% of the adult population, approximately 2.3 million people, attended arts events. I will not go into any further detail. Will the Minister confirm that he will not cut the Arts Council funding in 2012? We recognise that EU-IMF targets have to be reached over three years. If there are to be cuts will he make a statement today in order that we can start to plan better and work over the next three years?

We do not pretend to be in a position to help restore the economy but we can make a difference between being citizens and not just consumers. We also make a good business case. Of the €76 million of State funding in 2007 that was used to fund arts organisations and individuals across Ireland, €54 million was returned directly to the Exchequer in the form of VAT, income tax and other taxes. Our tourism, our national culture institutions and art festivals are a major driver. We also work well with business in attracting more than €20 million annually to the arts in terms of sponsorship and philanthropy. What is the status of the current working group on philanthropy and has the Minister any recommendations to make to the House today? I look forward to an answer in the House today.

We are also lacking a longitudinal survey, a researcher on the value of the arts. How do we value the arts as opposed to viewing it from an economic or tourism viewpoint? How can we get support? One of the greatest challenges facing the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is that it has failed to make any inroads into or contribution to education policy. There is no arts and education unit. I am pleased that the Minister mentioned that he is engaging with the Department of Education and Science at assistant secretary level. I would like to know exactly what is happening. There is no arts and education unit. There is a good document which has been passed by his Department entitled Points of Alignment, produced by the Arts Council in 2008 and which contains excellent recommendations. There is no need for further reports as this report can be used as a benchmark to engage with the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, who has an interest in the arts, on a structural response to maintaining the arts in the heart of the curriculum, not as a discretionary option, where there is an enlightened principal and an enlightened teacher.

To quote Francois Matarasso in the national economic and social forum report of 2007: "Put simply, since the arts shape the continuing evolution of people's thoughts and beliefs, democracy must ensure all citizens have equal access to the arts alongside equal access to education and to political enfranchisements."

I call Senator O'Donnell who has two and a half minutes.

As there was an interruption, the Senator can have an extra 30 seconds.

I welcome the Minister into the House. It is a privilege to stand here speaking to him. I have a very simple idea about the arts. The arts are about human imagination and human energy. Yesterday, spokespeople from the national campaign for the arts came in and told us the who, why, what, how and where they were and in the process opened up a complete world. They covered participation, outreach, tourism, impact, jobs, communities, innovation, health, identity, economy, citizenship, business, arts reputation, education and learning — a world, a cultural circle with 1,000 artistic radii, presenting the best of who we are as individuals and what we are as a country. It is a privilege to stand here with the Arts community in the Visitors Gallery speaking for and about them.

What will the Minister bring about that is unique in his tenure of office for which he will be remembered? I ask that with affection and respect because it is a question I am asking myself as a new Senator. What am I going to do? I wish to make one small suggestion that during his term of office the Minister take a determined and realistic positioning of drama, music and visual arts in all their forms, as Senator Fiach Mac Conghail has mentioned, as statutory and independent required disciplines in the school curriculum primary, middle and senior. Arts education is as important as mathematics education. The Greeks got that right many years ago.

The template I suggest the Minister look at is the vision and the leadership of John Kelly and the Irish Chamber Orchestra title "Sing out with Strings", in the Limerick regeneration. Some 30% of our population is under 18 years of age, that is, more than 1 million, yet only 5% of the arts budget goes to the area of young people and children in the arts. Does the Minister intend to change that? I suggest he does not allow the budget to be cut as it would not be right. The arts community is the only community who have never let us down.

We have been let down entirely by the banking community who have nearly brought the country to its knees. We depend on the arts community for the energy, creativity and vision to help us stand up again. I call on all Senators to make sure the budget is not cut.

In 2010 the Arts Council received €68 million, €65 million from the national lottery. As the national lottery revenue is gathered from lower socio-economic groups, unskilled workers, the unemployed and those with lower educational qualifications, who is paying for the arts? Is it like the banking transfer of artistic wealth from the less well off to subsidise the better off and the better artistically to be able to avail? I would like to hear the Minister's thoughts and whether he might walk the arts where they do not easily reside.

Kurt Vonnegut, my favourite, said the arts make life bearable. They have certainly made all my life bearable. Practising an art, no matter how well or how bad, will make your soul grow. Electronic communities do not do that. We are dancing animals. How great it is to get up, to go out and do something.

I ask for three things. First, fight for a bigger budget. I will help. We will all help. I ask the Minister to implement the arts in education as a truly qualitative, imaginative, creative form on the national school curriculum and using their money from the Lotto walk the arts into thorns and into places unknown and unnoticed. When in doubt, Minister, and without money, be brave and build a castle.

I was very liberal with my time to the Senator.

It was the dramatic effect of her statement. I call Senator John Whelan who has six minutes.

I will allow the Senator the same liberties.

I understand. It is an indication of the importance and central role played by the arts in Irish society that we are having this debate. I commend the Government and particularly those who drew up the programme for Government in difficult economic times for ensuring that the arts has a full Minister in Deputy Deenihan, at the heart of the Cabinet. That is a recognition of the importance that the arts play.

The arts are justifiably centre stage in an Irish political forum today and it is right and proper that they are represented at the Cabinet table. They play a central role in all our lives and are not only invaluable to our social, cultural and educational fabric but, as stated here, play an important role in the economy and in the tourism industry, with an estimated 10,000 people directly employed in the arts and responsible for generating €3 billion in revenue. Not everything that is important can be measured in euro. We are paying a heavy price for that lesson today.

Let no one doubt the international currency of Riverdance, U2, Roddy Doyle, Joseph O'Connor, Paul Durcan, Colm Tóibín, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Gabriel Byrne, Seamus Heaney, Des Bishop, Pat Shortt, Martin McDonagh, Mannix Flynn, John B. Keane, Brian Friel, Mick O'Dea and Robert Ballagh. The list stretches for as far as the eye can see. Everyone could include their personal favourites, but that is what the arts are all about — audience participation.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to some contemporary talents, including Eugene O'Brien, the playwright from Edenderry, and the young actor Robert Sheehan from Portlaoise. I am certain we will see more of their work and that it will enlighten and entertain us and inspire across the world's stage.

The arts stretch from the heart of Dublin in the Abbey Theatre to the picturesque streets of Abbeyleix and its small fledgling community arts festival. From the National Concert Hall to the rolling fields of Stradbally, which play host to the Electric Picnic, the arts are not a fuddy-duddy, elitist, exclusive enterprise. They are all around us on a daily basis and engage, excite, enlighten and educate us all. Pound for pound, the arts owe us nothing. They give great value for money and have never short changed us.

Not everyone involved in the arts can be a rock star or headline act. Many artists struggle to make ends meet. Some are on the bread line. Artists are hard working by nature and, in the best sense of the word, proud of what they do. In today's climate, many find making a living difficult. Some do not have a pay day from one end of the year to the next. For example, someone might work on a body of work for an exhibition for a year or two in the hope there will be some sales. In the case of sculptors I have met, it could be three years from the time they receive a commission to the time they get paid.

Perhaps the Minister will ask the Cabinet to address an anomaly, namely, the special status of the artist in terms of revenue and taxation affairs. It is not fair that an artist who receives a pay cheque once every two or three years has that money viewed as a single year's income, given the heavy tax and PRSI penalties imposed. The artists to whom I refer do not live in ivory towers. They must feed their families, send their children to school and pay their bills. It would be a relief and helpful were the Minister to intervene and resolve these unjust traps, perhaps inadvertently imposed by Revenue.

The way in which Revenue's rules apply to artistic capital projects is unsound and nonsensical. Laoighis-Offaly is fortunate to have fantastic facilities such as the Dunamaise Arts Centre, the Birr Theatre and Arts Centre and the Arthouse in Stradbally. With the local authorities, the Department and the Arts Council played leading roles in providing these. Tullamore is in the throes of a large effort to raise €250,000 in the community, no mean feat in the current climate, to build a new arts centre. I pay tribute to those behind the project on its outstanding design, technical specifications and superb location on the banks of the Grand Canal. The catch-22 is that, while the community is making great strides to fund-raise and match the Government's contribution, the VAT charged on the building of this capital project could be as high as €400,000, which would negate the community's contribution and could sink the project. That would be counterproductive and in no one's interests. In light of this anomaly, will the Minister intervene with Revenue? It would be futile for the Government, the Arts Council, local authorities and community to fund-raise and put resources into building a necessary arts centre only to have Revenue claw back the money.

I pay tribute to the constant contribution made to Ireland's cultural landscape by the Arts Council, particularly under the dynamic leadership of its chairperson, Ms Pat Moylan. Her hands on expertise and experience in the sector are immense. I urge the Minister to use his good offices — he does not interfere with council policy — to ask the Arts Council to re-examine some of its funding application processes, which can be unnecessarily convoluted and complex. Red tape is a burden wherever it is found and can be a significant and unnecessary deterrent to artists and small community groups.

I commend the Minister for the vigour and enthusiasm he has brought to his portfolio. I understand he wants to formulate a coherent arts and culture strategy for the country, which is to be commended. However, I caution him that it would be dangerous and counterproductive to impose a single template on the whole of the country. For example, counties Galway, Clare and Kerry do not have the same needs and priorities as counties Laois, Offaly and Longford. As far back as 1988, County Laois showed great initiative by appointing one of the country's first arts officers. Laois is an example of a county that is trying to build and nurture its arts infrastructure, although it is not at as advanced a stage as counties Kerry, Galway and others. Will the Minister take this into account? In terms of arts policy and strategy, one size does not necessarily fit all.

I welcome the Minister. He is bringing the great work he does in County Kerry to a national scale. One must commend the Taoiseach for his choice of Senators, for example, Senator Mac Chongail.

I have many important matters to raise, but I will try to adhere to the six minutes the Acting Chairman has given me. In the college where I grew up, the two people we most admired were Brendan Kennelly and Brian Boydell. Other people had fancier titles, but those two gentlemen's representation of the arts inspired us all.

Consider the North-South problems we have dealt with in recent times. The arts constitute one of the best ways to achieve such liaisons. Remember Brian Friel, Pat McCabe, Seamus Heaney and Hamilton Harty. As far as the arts are concerned, there are no borders. This is a valuable asset as we try to bind the wounds of many years.

There must be more interest in the arts within the university sector. It has worried me for some time that TCD has no professor of music. Brian Boydell is greatly missed. When I discussed this matter with the outgoing provost, he agreed that we needed a professor of music and that the post should be performance-related. I agree with Senator O'Donnell's suggestion that the next professor of banking who retires should be replaced by a professor of music. It is important that we have the ability to inspire the young.

There will be a short intake of breath from the people behind me in the Gallery but, if budgets are constrained, what can we do within our existing resources? A suggestion from an economist working in this area, Professor Dick Netzer, related to rehearsals. We rehearse for concerts and theatre productions. He suggested that we hold these rehearsals in shopping centres, schools and factories so that those who might not attend an opera could see how it was put together. Children in particular would see that it was not the perfect product they might hear were they to pay €50 to go to the opera. Let us see how the conductor gets things going. These rehearsals would bring the arts out to shopping centres, pubs, schools, offices and factories. We do not know what will inspire young people. It might be they will remember the day that two or three people from an orchestra came to school.

The Aosdána comprises amazing talents and fantastic people. Could it form part of thequid pro quo, no pun intended, for Aosdána members to visit schools? People would be inspired to meet such wonderful artists. This would reach out to the next generation, which tends to be neglected in formal arts budgets, as Senator O’Donnell stated.

Having put my suggestions to the Minister, I compliment him on the enthusiasm and energy he has brought to his post. I also compliment the arts community on how much it has done for our morale and the country in general.

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Not wanting to upstage my good friend, Senator Mac Conghail, it should be noted that Sinn Féin has been asking for the Minister to attend the House since my election. We are delighted he is present.

A Senator

There will be no taking credit.

No. We have been calling for this debate because it is an important matter. Bhí mé i láthair ag an ócáid ar a d'fhreastal an tAire i Halla na Cathrach i nGaillimh nuair a d'oscail sé suas an díospóireacht maidir leis na healaíona. Bhí an ócáid sin thar barr agus tá an-mholadh ag dul don Aire maidir leis an bhfís atá aige.

Einstein said all religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. It is interesting that we quote a scientist on a day like this because it is important to put the arts in the context of the overall position of the nation. All of these factors need to work together. I am afraid that, in the run-up to a budget, that might be forgotten. It is wonderful to hear the contributions today on the arts. There is much cross-party support for the arts.

There should be three foundations to any arts policy: to engage, to excel and to inspire. This touches on much of what has been said already. Engagement is very much about what our friends in the Visitors Gallery do. It is about getting people on the ground involved in arts-related activity. This echoes what Senator O'Donnell was saying. We need to reach out to all communities and get people involved in the arts at all levels. It is good for the soul and the community and a great antidote to the country's present woes. To be involved in creativity is important in itself. It is part of what we need to do as human beings to fulfil ourselves.

Having taught drama in school for quite a long time, I noticed that once children were engaged, a couple of them always shone and were fantastic. One goes home and says that one should have seen such a boy or girl. There are people in our arts communities who excel and we need to be able to support them in a very practical fashion.

The names of great people who inspire were mentioned. They really shine and make a name for themselves and Irish culture on the international stage. They show we box way above our weight when it comes to creativity, the arts and culture. We need to be proud of them and to support them.

References to the artist have been lacking in the debate thus far. We have talked about the arts groups, the arts community, culture, tourism and education but not the artist. Most of the artists to whom I talk say that all they want to do is produce their art. They need the space to be able to paint, write, dance or create theatre, either as an individual or with a group of like-minded people. They do not need conditions imposed on them such that if they receive a grant from the Arts Council to write their play, they must go into a few schools and do a few workshops. They want to be able to produce their art. I do not necessarily agree with the policy that if one is to be funded to engage in the arts, strings should be attached. We need to respect the artist as a professional. That is a fundamental mindshift we need in this country. We need to respect the space the artist takes up.

The bard was once renowned in Irish tradition as a very important part of the court. The bard was respected because of the poetry he wrote and not because of anything else. We need to return to respecting the fundamental role of the artist within our community. This must bring us to practicalities. I agree with the Minister that his engagement with the Department of Education and Skills is crucial because many teachers thank those who enter schools to do drama because they are not sure how to deliver the curriculum themselves. They thank God there is a few who can. The education system certainly needs to live up to its policies and to have professionals who can deliver the type of arts education that is needed. This, however, requires resources.

I received an e-mail this morning from five young people who want to work on a film in Galway this week. Their dilemma is that if they do a couple of days work on the film and sign off the dole, they will get a load of hassle. If they do not sign off, they could get into trouble. Whenever artists or people involved in the arts go into the Department of Social Protection, they are looked at as if they have two heads. The Department should begin to understand the role of an artist in the community. We need more flexible arrangements so those who work in the arts can come in and out of the system in a way that is suitable. This also relates to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. The sporadic nature of funding for arts commissions should be borne in mind.

Ta an-áthas orm gur thagair an tAire do chúrsaí ealaíon agus do chúrsaí Gaeilge. Tá sé iontach tábhachtach go dtabharfaimís aitheantas agus tacaíocht dos na grúpaí ealaíon atá ag feidhmiú tré mheán na Gaeilge. Ceann des na jabanna atá le déanamh againn ná labhairt leis na hinstitiúidí móra a bhfuil feidhm orthu go náisiúnta ó thaobh na n-ealaíon, le déanamh cinnte go bhfuil siad ag comhlíonadh a gcuid dualgais maidir leis na healaíona i nGaeilge. Tréaslaím leis an Seanadóir Mac Conghail ó thaobh Amharclann na Mainistreach. Tá sé ag déanamh sár jab mar stiúrthóir ealaíon. Ach ceann des na lochtanna a bheadh agam ar Amharclann na Mainistreach ná nach bhfuil sé ag comhlíonadh a chuid dualgais maidir le cúrsaí drámaíochta trí Ghaeilge agus ba bhreá liom tuilleadh deiseanna a fheiceáil agus go mbeadh achmhainní ar fáil do sin.

I am sure more points will be raised in the debate. I agree with Senator O'Donnell that the economic arguments put by groups such as the National Campaign for the Arts and the Arts Council are very compelling. We should not cut back on the arts.

It makes no sense. With a minimal injection of funding into the arts sector, there is an accumulator effect and jobs are provided. These benefits and the international prestige gained far outweigh the investment.

Sinn Féin is probably the only party that has stood against the austerity measures. It argues that money should not be given to the unguaranteed bondholders but invested in the arts, health and social services. The arts and structural organisations have their part to play in making sure the relevant economies are put in place and that as much money as possible gets to the individual artists and arts groups providing services on the ground.

Oscar Wilde stated, "Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things, that may not be taken from you." The arts are those things. We have seen our riches stolen from us but they cannot steal our arts.

I call the Minister, who may respond to spokespersons before taking questions. How much time will he need in which to reply?

A lot of people have got that today.

We are here until 2.15 p.m.

Yes, but ten Senators have indicated they have questions.

I thank all the speakers. Their contributions, although short, were very much to the point. They asked pertinent questions and I will try to answer them in so far as I can.

I have been a great admirer of Senator Ó Murchú for some time. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has been one of the great cultural movements. It and the GAA have been all-embracing movements and their contributions to Irish culture are immeasurable. One must appreciate the level of volunteering in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the time people devote to it for absolutely nothing. The organisation is possibly the most influential Irish organisation in America and it has branches in Sardinia and Russia. There is great growth associated with Irish music and dance in Russia.

I totally agree with what was said about partnership. Senator O'Donnell asked what I would like to be remembered for as a Minister. I would like to be remembered as having been a friend of the arts and a facilitator, that is, somebody who listened and tried to implement many of the good ideas emanating from the arts community nationally. I will certainly do so. None of us has a monopoly of wisdom in the arts; we all have our own areas of expertise but are not experts in all the artistic forms.

I agree that if officials, the Minister, Members of the Oireachtas and arts community work together, something very special can be done. I see plenty of opportunities for collaboration and even for using existing resources to the full. We have a really good human resource, including young college graduates who are very well qualified.

We now have spaces we did not have 15 years ago. In the past ten years, previous Governments invested €1 billion in creating spaces, and this must be recognised. The taxpayer has made an enormous contribution to the arts in the past 15 years. Now, we must concentrate on human resources, programming, content and creativity. We have done the building, and for the time being we do not have the money for further building. We must concentrate on ensuring the human resources we have nurtured over the past ten years remain in the country and that we support them as much as possible.

To refer to last Sunday's game, which was a great spectacle for Gaelic football——

It was a great result.

Absolutely. I am sure the Senator would have done very well with the Dublin football team if he ran for the Presidency. He would have been out there leading them.

I might yet. The game is not over yet.

As you know, my goodwill is with you, Sir.

Is it not hard for Kerry people to wear blue today?

Certainly.

I was at Croke Park last Sunday and I felt the atmosphere, even if the result was not what we Kerry people would have liked. However, as we say in Kerry, when we lose it is good for the game and when we win, it is good for Kerry. Last Sunday's match was very good for the game. I was impressed with the number of young people I saw taking pride in the Dublin jersey. The city was a sea of blue with young people enjoying themselves like I never saw before, even at rugby and soccer internationals. There was an identification between the people of Dublin and their team in Croke Park. Even as a player I had never felt this. As Senator Ó Murchú stated, it was a younger breed of people and it is encouraging that they embraced this in such a positive way. They were very proud of what their team achieved. I hope they do not achieve the same next year. Garry McMahon was a very good Kerry songwriter, and his brother is chairman of the Abbey Theatre board. He wrote a beautiful song about dúchas — tradition — and two lines sum up Kerry, "And when we lose, there's no excuse, we pick up our bags and go". That is what our lads did last Sunday.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Senator Mac Conghail emphasised the aspect of education. Engagement between the Department and the Department of Education and Skills has taken place and will continue. Two high ranking officials, assistant secretaries in each Department, who have worked with each other in the past, are engaging with each other. The engagement started with my adviser and the advisers of the Minister, Deputy Quinn, getting together. Then, the two Ministers got together and we had very positive engagement. Now, two high ranking officials are working together.

We are serious about what we can contribute to the arts. It may be impossible to implement all of the Points of Alignment report but parts of it are implementable. It has been put aside for three years, perhaps for good reasons such as the resources not being available; I do not know whether the commitment was there. Certainly, the commitment exists now on the part of both Ministers to ensure not only the implementation of Points of Alignment but also to work on other aspects of arts policy that can be put in place with good will, support and a small amount of resources which would yield a considerable outcome.

However important mathematics and science are, in the developing policies on numeracy and literacy, arts and arts related subjects are being marginalised and becoming discretionary. The education system is governed by the marketplace——

——and we must be very careful. I am aware of the Minister's bona fides and we Senators will do what we can to encourage him and the Minister, Deputy Quinn, to ensure we deliver holistic education to all our young citizens so they can participate in all aspects of Irish life.

I understand from my experience of teaching how if a school places an emphasis on certain subjects generally they prevail. This can be guided by the principal. However, I must state that just yesterday, I met a delegation from the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, and I will address its conference this year. It has a direct connection with 700 schools in the country and its members are as enthusiastic as I have ever seen with regard to promoting the arts. This includes practitioners throughout the country. If principals are this committed surely it is a very positive sign.

They need the resources.

They are committed. We cannot live in the Senator's perfect world either.

We could. The Minister would be very welcome.

Please do not interrupt the Minister as other Senators want to ask questions.

I would love to be in that zone but unfortunately it is not the reality. However, when these people request a meeting and four of them travel to meet a Minister irrespective of who is Minister, one must acknowledge and appreciate it. If they are very positive and recognise that resources are stretched but are still prepared to try to do something, then one must accommodate it and ensure their enthusiasm is used as much as possible and that we capitalise on the opportunity. I felt very positive after the meeting and we will continue this engagement. I hope also to create a forum with a number of interested parties in education. I know it exists already, but I would like to expand it in order that I can enter a conversation with people involved in education provision in the arts throughout the various sectors during the next four years.

With regard to study, we have looked at the economic value but we must also look at the creative imperative and creative dividend the country gets from the arts. People state the Irish are creative and we have proven this. For such a small nation, we are very creative people. We must measure this also in the context of economics.

As I described him on a number of occasions at international fora, and with all due respect to other Senators, Senator Mac Conghail is Senator for the arts.

He has started very well.

Senator Marie Louise O'Donnell and I have known each other for a very long time and we have very good mutual friends in the United States and elsewhere. She asked for what I would like to be remembered. I would like to be remembered as a friend of the arts and that is all. If, after four years, I can come out as someone who has tried his best, listened to people and delivered something I will be quite happy.

With regard to funding for young people, in 2003 when arts legislation was going through the Dáil I delayed it for months. I argued for an arms-length approach, in other words that the Minister could not direct the Arts Council on arts policy or on how it spends its money. The 5% is very much in the hands of the Arts Council and it is that body which will decide how much money it spends on various aspects of the arts. I am sending out a strong message on how I see the arts developing and the importance of education. I hope the Arts Council executive will respond to what Senators have stated and to my overarching policy.

Senator John Whelan is a practitioner. As regards making a living, I spoke to an artist last week who is quite well known. She said that in order to make a living and support her family she would have to undertake approximately 120 commissions a year. That is a lot of sales. Painters, actors and those involved in the film industry are finding it very difficult at the moment. There is less activity now in the documentary sector than for the past ten years. These are difficult times. We should all be very much aware of that because we have a great skills base in various aspects of the arts, visual and performing, and we must support that.

I am very much aware of the challenges that exist currently. I support the provision of resources from whatever angle for artists in the next four years. There are other ways of making money. I will refer to what has been said in a moment. There are difficulties as regards VAT and tax, but my official has informed me that if Members wish to engage with him, the Department has worked with people in the past on aspects of revenue with which they may be able to assist. I agree that it takes an artist time to create a work. It must have taken time for the artist that created the beautiful and spectacular statue of Michael Cusack in front of the Cusack stand. I also agree that the time taken into account should relate to the time from when an artist started a commission to when it was finished. It would make sense for the time to be averaged over a period so that a person is not hit with a big tax bill in year three when the work has been ongoing for a few years.

I wish to comment on the arts policy and having one blueprint for the country. The Department is located in Kerry. I brought in all the practitioners in Kerry on the Monday following my appointment. It was suggested that they should devise a strategy or template in Kerry in consultation with all the organisations and practitioners which could act as a template for the rest of the country. It is an online project which has been completed. It involved input from all practitioners, the arts office in Kerry and others. It is now available to the rest of the country. It is not a blueprint for the rest of the country but people can look at it and adopt aspects of it in other counties. What might be successful in Galway could be successful in Kerry andvice versa. In that way people could avoid pursuing dead-end projects that did not work elsewhere. It is a way for arts practitioners throughout the country to engage in dialogue online. Following that I brought together all of the arts officers, who are a great resource in this country. They are very much part of the project. I am travelling around the country and I have already been to six counties. Local arts officers bring together all the practitioners in an area and we have a conversation about what is good for the arts in the county in question, what is different there from other counties and what is required. I found the engagement to date useful.

Senator Barrett raised some important questions. So much is going on in the university sector at the moment in terms of the arts and creative industries but it is confined to the sector and is not being transmitted to the broader population. There are tenuous connections between universities and the general community. There are good examples of interaction. For example, I have been engaged with University College Cork and in other places where there are good examples of interaction. Universities are an invaluable resource waiting to be tapped. Collaboration can take place but it is not taking place to the extent that it could or should. I am delighted Senator Barrett raised the issue of more engagement between the arts community and universities given that so much is going on at the moment. Some very bright, creative people are coming up with new ideas but they are not being translated and transmitted to the broader community.

A total of 12 Senators have indicated they wish to ask questions.

I am sorry. I will finish. I have only a few more points to make. The Senators who spoke raised some pertinent points.

I know they did but other Senators wish to contribute.

I am prepared to stay here until 5 p.m.

If the Minister is willing to stay we should let him stay. What time are we supposed to finish?

There should be no time limit on the arts.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I am sorry but we must stick to the agenda.

As regards rehearsals, when I was in Boyle and Clifden this year I was delighted to see use being made of unoccupied buildings of which there are many around the country. Some good exhibitions are being held in various unoccupied buildings. I refer to shops that were closed down. They are ideal for the purpose. People like to go into a building such as a garage or space. I opened a major exhibition for the Mexican Embassy in a former car park. Some Members may have attended. There was an enormous crowd there. Such a venue creates its own atmosphere. An older building such as Earlsfort Terrace can be attractive for the display of contemporary art. Senator Barrett's idea is a good one. I am trying to encourage as many people as possible around the country to look at existing buildings and use them for rehearsals for choral groups, for example, and the visual arts. I will try to encourage that as much as I can.

Reference was made to Aosdána. It is an interesting issue. Senator Ó Clochartaigh may have been listening to some of the practitioners in Galway. During my engagement around the country I mentioned the possibility that people who are getting funding from the arts could make a contribution to education. They are not compelled to do so. That suggestion got a negative reaction in Galway. Senator Ó Clochartaigh has been briefed on the issue. I just threw out the suggestion for consideration.

If people from Aosdána could go into schools for even a half hour visit it would make such a difference. I know that is the case from my experience of going into schools as a sportsman and now to some extent from my involvement in the arts. There is no doubt that any politician going into a school makes an impact. It will make a greater impact if one goes to a school to talk about the arts or any subject to which young people can relate. Senator Ned O'Sullivan will understand my point. Any time that Bryan MacMahon or John B. Keane came into our schools we remembered it for ever. That is the bottom line. If Brendan Kennelly appeared it would be like a god appearing in schools.

That is the reality. People should not underestimate their connection with and influence on young people if they visit a school for even half an hour every year. Gabriel Fitzmaurice is a great Kerry poet. He was principal teacher in a school in Moyvane. Now he is visiting schools. He has produced one of the best children's poetry books in the country and he is visiting schools with great effect. That is a good idea and it should be considered. I fully agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh on the three foundations of arts policy; engagement, excellence and inspiration. They can certainly change the whole narrative in this country. Some time ago, I was in west Belfast for Féile an Phobail, which is one of the biggest festivals in Ireland. I can see how Féile an Phobail has changed the mindset of people in west Belfast. In addition, it has been very successful in crossing boundaries into other communities as well. If it can work in a place like Belfast where two communities were at loggerheads with so much division for so long, it proves they can work together and that the arts transcend all boundaries. I was delighted to attend that festival. I was described there as the "first Southern Minister" to go North. I reminded them that I was from the Republic of Ireland, of course, but I was delighted to be there.

We were speaking earlier about social inclusion. I was involved in that NESC report on social inclusion which was published in 2007. I took it seriously and went to all the meetings we held. We engaged with many people around the country. At the time I said there were communities around Ireland that had not been touched by the arts; therefore, touring is very important. I acknowledge the Arts Council's programme this year which involves an expenditure of more than €1 million on touring to all parts of the country. It is not just to regional centres, but also to community halls and other venues. That work is most important. The Arts Council should keep up that policy, which is for the whole country. Senator Mac Conghail's Abbey Theatre is for all of the country too. It is a national theatre and its productions should be seen in Donegal, Galway and Kerry and elsewhere along the western seaboard. People should know the Abbey is there, as it is a national cultural institution for everyone.

As regards resources, I agree that young people who are on social welfare may have skills, such as film production, sound technicians or camera operators, but they cannot get work at present. There should be flexibility, tolerance and understanding that because of the nature of the film industry a person might be lucky to get one gig during the whole year because there is so little activity going on. I have heard that from people who are very busy in whatever capacity. I agree with Senators that there must be an understanding of the position of people in the film industry, or artists generally.

I think I have referred to most of what Senators raised in the debate.

I asked the Minister a question about funding.

The Senator has been in politics for only a short time but, as he knows, we are not allowed to divulge what is in the budget.

Every Minister will make budget submissions but the Senator can read my lips from the point of view that I will be in there fighting for the arts. In addition, the national campaign for the arts must advise the Minister for Finance accordingly, as well as the Taoiseach, who is very receptive towards the arts. They are the critical people. Senators and TDs can be advised and educated but ultimately the Minister for Finance will make the decision. It is very important, therefore,that he understands the economic importance of the arts, as well as their role in fostering creativity. It is important to repair the damaged image we have around the world. Nonetheless, it is improving because of our artists. In New York, for example, there may be 400 shows going on each night. Our dramatists are doing exceptionally well in the first Irish festival there. The Origin Theatre Company is giving out a very positive message for us in New York, which is very important. That impact around the world should be also measured.

I now look forward to hearing Senators' contributions until 5 p.m.

More than ten Senators have indicated they wish to ask questions. I will take them in groups of three. They will have one minute each with a brief reply from the Minister in order that we can get through everybody. The first three will be Senators Moloney, Norris and Coughlan.

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is nice to see a fellow Kerry person. I know the arts are in good hands because I know how passionate he is about the sector. I also know that if anything can be done to help the sector he will do it. I will try to fit my questions into one minute. The funding of cultural centres for the performing arts, such as Siamsa Tire, has reaped benefits for the community as a whole. Members of Siamsa Tire have toured the world showcasing Ireland in storytelling, song and dance. In turn, they have enticed tourists to visit Ireland for more of the same. It is well known that cultural tourists stay longer in Ireland and spend more. Likewise, Riverdance has increased Ireland's standing on the cultural map. No one should claim that the arts cannot do much for this country's recovery. That is not the case because tourists flock here, perhaps not for the weather but for our hospitality, cultural richness and traditions. I will get to the question because I can see that the Cathaoirleach is getting cross.

I have to be fair to everybody.

Will the Minister ensure that funding will continue for centres such as Siamsa Tire? Such an investment will benefit the economy. I was going to speak about education but the Minister has addressed that issue pretty well, and I thank him for doing so. However, research by the Scottish government has shown that a positive association exists between participation in arts activities and a reduction in crime. Crime rates have been known to drop in areas where such activities have been provided.

Does the Senator have a question?

Do the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, have proposals, as with the Minister for Education and Skills, to introduce programmes in high crime areas?

Local arts funding is at the discretion of county managers. I ask the Minister to ensure that funding provided for the arts is identified and earmarked in local councils. In addition, all moneys allocated to the arts should be spent in that sector. The Minister should request reports from the local authorities to monitor how the money has been spent.

Senators should ask questions and if we have more time they can come back in again. I call Senator Norris.

The Minister has a track record and we are lucky to have him. It all comes down to funding. How can we help? Can we have more of these sessions? Can we have this sort of debate regularly, with an interchange of questions and answers? Thank God we have people like Senator Fiach Mac Conghail and Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell who are central to the arts debate. The Abbey Theatre is an international gem. I was thrilled by the Abbey's production of "John Gabriel Borkman" which has an international audience and export potential.

The Trondheim report clearly showed a substantial increase in mental health well-being through involvement in local cultural activities. I am thrilled that we have 70 theatres all over this country, which means that every community can have access. They must continue to be funded. Can we help in any way and, if so, how can we do so?

As regards the Irish language, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is so important, as is the GAA. The language is one of our distinguishing characteristics. I was over in the Aran Islands and that community needs support. People sometimes say it is disproportionate but they are an island community, which is different from communities on the mainland.

Hear, hear. Maith an fear.

We must support the people of the islands. Our culture is invaluable. We made a huge mistake in getting rid of the cló gaelach.

I will be brief. I would like to make a speech but that is not allowed. The Minister sold himself short when he said he was a friend of the arts. Everyone realises the Minister has been a tremendous supporter of the arts, not just when in government but also for years when a member of the Opposition. I welcome very much what he has achieved, particularly in that Department and in those offices in Killarney. Nobody had made use of those offices but the Minister has done so. He has held meetings in those offices early on Monday mornings with people in the arts. He has brought together people from all over and great work has been done. Since Deputy Deenihan became Minister, that building has hosted exhibitions and shows and it is a great credit to him. He comes, of course, from the literary capital of the Kingdom and, therefore, I would not expect anything less.

Does the Senator have a question?

I have a question, of course. I salute the Minister's initiative with regard to Killarney House and his policy for the use of our housing heritage for cultural purposes. I know he also supports what we have done in Muckross House and the cultural events that have been hosted there over the years, such as shows, plays and music events. I would like to hear the Minister's views on the tremendous initiative on Killarney House, an initiative which would not have happened without him——

I think the Senator has asked a question.

It had been gathering dust in files. I want to hear from the Minister because I believe he has very good ambitious plans.

Please give him a chance to reply.

In answer to Senator Moloney's question about Siamsa Tíre, it began in my own village of Finuge with Teach Siamsa where a renovation is currently under way. Siamsa Tíre plans to apply for the status of a national cultural institution. It is the national folklore theatre which reached out in the time before Riverdance and other performers. It toured around the world before these other performers. I agree with the Senator as to the importance of Siamsa Tíre. Most of the summer audiences for Siamsa Tíre are from his own town of Killarney. The company provides a significant cultural service for Killarney and for the rest of Kerry. As it has performed in Dublin and in other parts of the country, it wishes to move on being recognised as a national cultural institution. It is a question of making an application and making the case that it is a truly national institution. I suggested to the people in Siamsa Tíre that it might be preferable to apply to the Department with responsibility for the Gaeltacht which would give them a greater spread. There is no question of a cut in their funding but both the Department and myself would like to see more support from the local authority in County Kerry for Siamsa Tíre because it makes such a significant contribution to the local tourist industry. Funding needs to come from the local authority as well as from the Department and philanthropic sources. I am aware that Kerry Group is very supportive of Siamsa Tíre and it is to be hoped this important support will continue and even be increased.

Senator Norris referred to An Taibhdhearc. There was a danger this theatre was to close but the Department ensured it would remain open. I have given assurances that we will support it and provide funding on the expectation that the theatre will provide development plans for the future. This shows that the Department took action in this matter. I do not have to remind Senator Norris that James Joyce is a major global figure. When one meets Japanese and Chinese ——

I thought he was too predictable. I knew the Minister would do it for me.

I thank the Senator.

The Minister to continue, without interruption.

The Senator knows well there will be a tsunami on Joyce next year with the ending of copyright on his works. It is important that the Senator's organisation——

We will help in any way we can.

——and the Government should also be ready.

There is an extraordinary interest in James Joyce all over the world, and it is also extraordinary that an Irishman, a Dublin man, could have such an influence right across the world. The ending of copyright restrictions will provide a significant opportunity. We should discuss how to maximise that opportunity next year. I was delighted that this year, all over the city and also in Dún Laoghaire, Blackrock and elsewhere, this event is being used to generate local enthusiasm. I refer to a very fine event held in Dún Laoghaire. People dressed in period costume and it created a great buzz, so to speak. I know a certain actor for many years and he was performing in front of the museum. I have met him on the street on Bloomsday in the past when people dismissed his performance as being a nuisance. That attitude has changed now. This year, people were engaging with him, listening to him and enjoying what he was saying. He can see the change in attitude over the years. Dubliners now regard James Joyce in a different light. Ulysses in translation by a performer is very different from Ulysses as reading material.

We have a lot to talk about in this regard.

We have many more questions yet.

I agree with Senator Norris about mental well-being. One of the reasons I appointed an adviser who was working with the Arts Council was that this person was very familiar with what was happening in the arts world in Dublin. I also wanted him to act as a cultural broker. He will negotiate with all Departments having any connection with the arts. He has been in contact with the Department of Education and Science and we will be engaging with the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I am making a special trip to Kilkenny to engage with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The Minister for Health understands the therapeutic value of the arts for mental health and wellbeing. The hospice in Tralee has a very good programme and the arts can have a significant effect on the terminally ill. I am in favour of supporting such programmes.

I know that Senator Paul Coghlan claims total credit for Killarney House——

I was campaigning for years until along came the Minister. I could not have succeeded without him.

The most important news is that Killarney House will be restored. The McShane family donated the house to the State, the only charge being for the furniture. It is very valuable furniture which is now in storage in Limerick and it does not cost as much as people thought. The house was given free of charge to the State. Sister Pauline McShane used to be horrified every summer on her visits home when she saw an iconic house disintegrating and being vandalised. The State stood indicted to some degree by this neglect. The national parks and wildlife service administer the Killarney National Park. It is the largest national park in the country, at 22,000 acres and one of the finest parks in Europe. Because of the synergy between biodiversity and the arts, this is a very exciting project. The park contains a unique collection of various species of fish, bird and plant life. The connection between biodiversity and the arts will be emphasised in the new proposal. It links Killarney town with the park which is on the outskirts of the town.

I thank Senator Coghlan for his support over the years and for keeping it on the agenda of the House at all times. I refer to what is happening in Limerick as regards the music initiative. We should look at that to see how it can be transferred to other parts of the country.

It is a tremendous success.

It proves a point. From my experience in Ireland and beyond, wherever there are good programmes in place, they can change people's lives. I read about such a programme in London where young drop-outs were involved in a drama programme and one young girl who brought her mother along said it was the first time she ever really understood her mother. That insight alone was important.

I agree that the pursuit of the arts with young people, particularly through music, can be a very good way of getting people to refocus and find a different meaning for their lives. Studies over the years have shown that such programmes are effective. The Limerick experience, which is part of the whole regeneration programme, is very important in that regard. I have told the people of Limerick that they should look at Galway to see how arts and culture totally rejuvenated Galway. The same could be done in Limerick because the structures are there and the expertise is available through the university. There is a great opportunity and as Senator Moloney said, the project could be applied to any part of the country.

The next questions will be those of Senators Daly, Healy Eames and Conway.

It is great to see the Minister in this House. I am aware of his passion and work for the arts over many years as a Deputy in north Kerry. Not only does he assist projects, but he spearheads them. I heard his comments about the match and we can obviously console ourselves.

Does the Senator have a question for the Minister before he runs out of time?

I am delighted to be on the committee on the 2016 celebrations which is chaired by the Minister. What can we do in the arts area in the run up to the 2016 celebrations? I am aware of proposals such as the freedom trail. The Minister is spearheading a task force that will go around the country. Can he outline to the House what will be done? Also, we have some cultural ambassadors, the most famous of whom is probably Gabriel Byrne. Does the Minister propose to appoint more ambassadors?

While it is not in the Minister's remit, I was delighted to see yesterday that the mother of a New York fireman who died in the 11 September 2001 attacks received the first certificate of Irish heritage, an initiative the Minister has been most helpful in ensuring is successful. Will the Minister explain to the House his vision and how this certificate could help the arts, the IDA, Tourism Ireland and the other institutions and colleges to assist our recovery in the near future?

I welcome the Minister to the House and have three questions for him. Like others, I applaud the Minister on his vision for the arts and his belief in its capacity to transform this area.

If the Senator has three questions, she better get to them, because we will run out of time.

Galway was once a sleepy place, but it has been transformed. The arts have played a huge role in that transformation. Currently, the arts are worth €150 million to Galway. However, there is one major obstacle. Galway would have been the city of culture in Ireland — unofficially it probably is — but for the lack of adequate space. The arts are meant to be open to all, but what do Galway people do if they want to dance or play the piano? There is no dance studio or school of music in Galway, despite the fact that it has often been the intention to provide one. My interest is in literature and children's writing and I would like to see a writing centre, perhaps along the lines of Fighting Words, in Galway.

There is much to be done. Does the Minister have a regional plan for the arts and what will his legacy be to the country when he leaves this Ministry?

I answered that question already.

I apologise, but I did not hear the answer. Does the Minister plan an audit ——

The Minister has answered that question already and there is no point in asking it again.

Does the Minister plan an audit of needs in the regions in order that we do not see an unfavourable bias for Dublin or Kerry? My second question relates to the arts in education, particularly drama.

That question was also answered.

I would like to address a particular aspect, namely, oral language. I was very much involved in the revision of the primary school curriculum and know that drama is included in it. However, arts——

This question was answered.

I would like to ask the Minister about it.

We cannot be repetitive. In fairness, there are others who wish to ask questions.

This is my little bit of time.

The Senator is over her time.

I have not asked the question yet.

The questions were already asked and answered. The Senator is out of time.

Dramatic arts will not happen at second level unless time is allocated. This requires two things. Will the Minister join with the Minister for Education and Skills to consider time, training and methodology for this, because these are the key needs?

What is the Minister doing about the issue of VAT on foreign art?

The Senator is out of time.

I welcome the Minister. He spoke about the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, but he may not be aware that over the weekend that region became a world geo-park centre. It has got great recognition and arts and culture in that area have played a significant part in that. I have two quick questions. The first concerns art spaces and arrangements with regard to rates and local authorities. A number of art studios are feeling the pinch in terms of their rate bills. Is there any joined-up thinking between the Department and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government? The Minister is going to Kilkenny and perhaps he can talk to the Minister, Deputy Hogan, while there.

The Minister spoke about the benefits of art to people with disabilities in terms of expressing themselves. When people see a beautiful painting done by somebody in a wheelchair, they look at the painting and the person who created it rather than at the disability. Therefore, the broad spectrum of inclusivity is very much part of the arts, particularly with regard to disability. The Minister launched the Disability 1 Initiative in Dublin recently and may have spoken to some of those involved with the intention of assisting them in rolling out the initiative on a national basis. I would like to have had more time to speak on this issue. I put my name forward, but did not get the opportunity.

I am operating within constraints and there are a number of others who wish to speak. The Senator has had over a minute and a half to speak.

Compared to many others, I have been very restrained.

I have been fair to everybody, but I must ask the Minister to respond.

Thank you. When I checked with the Acting Chairman, I was third on the list, but I was not called third.

I can show the Senator the list.

I appreciate Senator Daly's comments. He is from a very cultured town, Kenmare, where the people have a very good balance between tourism and culture and have always held on to their unique identity. The Senator is in a very special part of the globe in Kenmare.

The 1916 commemorations will be very important and it is important they are inclusive. We can all trace our party origins back to 1916, to the GPO and the other areas and we must all be part of the celebration. It cannot be the preserve of a particular party or individual. It is important we work closely together and that we start immediately. It all started with the Home Rule Bill 1912, followed by the Ulster Covenant setting up the Ulster Volunteers and then the reaction here to set up the Irish Volunteers in 1913. The process started then. If I get the opportunity, I would like to see these celebrations as a great cultural event. When one looks at the signatories of the proclamation, one sees they were all poets and writers. The rising was driven by a national zeal, patriotism and nationalism that were inspired by writers. Many of us read Pádraig Pearse when we were going to school.

He wrote wonderful, understandable Irish, much of it describing Connemara, and he was an inspirational figure. It was through his writing that he inspired people, as did the other signatories and many others. This must be seen to be a great commemorative event. We must acknowledge the military aspect but it is so much bigger than that. These people were inspired, although they had no hope of winning the engagement. They were opposing a powerful empire but they made a major statement for our country and our culture and history inspired all of them to give their lives for all of us. We must appreciate their contribution to the country and we must start to do that as soon as possible. The Senator and Senator White are on the committee. It is important that there is a wider engagement beyond the committee and perhaps I will come back to the House when we formulate the strategy for the celebration and commemoration of 1916 for ideas on how we can approach it in a broad way that ensures inclusivity for all of us.

Heritage certificates will be important. The Irish diaspora in America has reduced in number from 40 million to 30 million but there are 70 million throughout the world. In the UK, people were reluctant to put down their nationality as Irish but a major campaign was undertaken prior to this year's census to encourage people to do so and that will change everything. The figure mentioned at the time for those of Irish descent living in the UK was 3 million but that could increase considerably. In Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, we do not have the same problems with nationality and identity. For example, a huge number of Irish people attended last Saturday's match in Auckland but most of them did not travel from Ireland for the game. They travelled from Sydney, Melbourne and so on in Australia and from elsewhere in New Zealand. It brought home the number of young people who have left the country. The diaspora is interested in the country. Farmleigh MK 1 reached out to them and Farmleigh MK 2 will be an extension of that. The connection I have been working on for a long time is critically important for the country at this time to reach out to our diaspora who are more than willing to help us. There is great goodwill towards us in the international community, especially among the Diaspora. People feel they are from the soil of Ireland and they have an attachment to the country. The heritage certificate must show a connection to Ireland and a person must be identified. Senator Daly has been involved over the years in helping Brian McCarthy and FEXCO to develop this project. That must be recognised.

Both Senator Healy Eames and I worked on a project in the past that covered the writers' week in Listowel, the Yeats festival in Sligo and the Cúirt festival in Galway. We got the three organisations together to promote them in America and that was successful. We should seek more of these collaborations. If any community or city can provide space, it is Galway because it has generated a great deal through the promotion of the arts and culture.

But this is presenting as a difficulty.

It is easy to adapt buildings for dance studio space and it should be possible to do that. I am sure there are several opportunities for music——

Is the Minister considering engaging with NAMA?

The Senator should allow the Minister to reply. Several other Members are waiting to ask questions.

I met NAMA officials. They are loan managers, not property developers, and, therefore, they are facilitating people, hopefully, in a significant way in certain instances. The likes of the Senator or her community should engage with NAMA if buildings are available. I met the agency's officials and we discussed possibilities for the arts in vacant buildings and they have been enthusiastic and co-operative. They will work through the owners of the buildings as they manage the loans and they will be facilitators. I have been assured by them that they will be sympathetic when it comes to the arts.

I have referred to arts in education on numerous occasions. It is very much my ambition to facilitate more engagement between schools and communities and universities. I agree with the Senator regarding a regional strategy for the arts. In 1994, the then Minister, Michael D. Higgins, drafted a spatial strategy for the arts. It identified the need for theatres in Letterkenny, Portlaoise and other towns that did not have facilities. The cultural development incentive scheme, CDIS, funded these facilities and at the time a committee was set up to identify where grant money should be spent. There was one proposal for Dingle but the money was transferred to another iconic project that did not work out. The remainder of the money was allocated as directed at the time. That was the last time a proper regional spatial strategy was drafted for arts provision. When I travel around the country, I sometimes come across two major facilities located close to each other, which could have worked together using a common space.

Senator Conway also raised the issue of arts spaces and cultural venues and rates. Generally, local authorities give these venues an exemption if they are run by community groups. It depends on the local authority but the general understanding is that if it is a community facility and it is undertaking cultural programmes and so on, it will be accommodated.

If they charge, it applies.

The Senator has asked his question.

Hang on a second. It is a point of information.

Other Members want to ask questions.

It depends very much on their economic circumstances. Most local authorities will consider the income and expenditure of the venue and make a decision on that basis. I agree with the Senator regarding people with disabilities. Only a few weeks ago I opened a project run by people from Mount Eagle Lodge in Tralee. The standard was extraordinary. The parents of these adults with special needs were also present and the atmosphere was something to savour. It was a completely different feeling from what I have experienced anywhere else over the past six months. It meant so much to the parents that their children could achieve. I agree with the Senator's comments and if he has further ideas to promote these projects, I would be interested.

Seven Senators have indicated. Five have not contributed so far and, therefore, I will take the five together and the Minister will then give a brief reply.

As a constituency colleague and former teaching colleague of the Minister, I hope the Cathaoirleach will give me a little latitude in acknowledging his bona fides in the arts long before he became a member of the Cabinet. He has driven and delivered some fantastic arts projects in Kerry and I know he will continue in that vein at national level. I have three questions. I am pushing an open door with the Minister, and although he cannot interfere with the Arts Council budget, can he ring-fence money for regional arts centres? He knows what a wonderful job they are doing. They are allowing people in rural communities access to the arts. I know Senator Mac Conghail's theatre, as well as the National Concert Hall and Opera Ireland, must fight battles for funding. It is important to have arts in the regions.

Will the Minister try his best to get music into our schools? We are still in the 18th century in this regard, particularly in trying to get music on the curriculum in all-male schools. We have all seen the wonderful joy that music can bring to young people in garage and pop bands. I know this from my own family.

The final question may be the most politically difficult for the Minister. In the run-up to 2016 I would like to address a significant omission made in our capital city. Every one of the 1916 leaders is commemorated in the city between rail stations, the Cathal Brugha barracks, Collins and Griffith avenues. One man is not commemorated and I would like to see Éamon de Valera with proper respect in the city by 2016.

I would welcome a further debate as I have been anxious to speak since the beginning of this one. I am a former music teacher in a secondary school and I taught for almost 30 years. I also ask for music to be promoted, particularly, in Irish schools. If there is a cut to be made in a school today, music is the first to go. With the introduction of extra subjects some years ago to the curriculum, my own school, which had offered music to every student coming to first year, reduced it to being a choice subject offered for one period a week. Having taught and examined leaving and junior certificate music, I agree that with the change in our young people we need a more modern music curriculum. May we have a more integrated and informative course for junior and leaving certificate music? In that school I founded an orchestra which had more than 100 students participating. It was all done on a voluntary basis.

Does the Senator have a question?

Such an initiative combined children with various intelligence quotients and family backgrounds. Everybody was brought together to perform on a national stage.

Tá a lán ráite mar gheall ar an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an Ghaeilge, an chultúr agus na healaíona. Molaim é sin.

My question is on voluntary participation in the arts. As we know, much of the arts is done through a voluntary capacity and I resigned as chairperson of Rua Red, the arts centre in south Dublin, when I came in here. I miss it but I will work for the arts while here.

With regard to cross-Border participation, we should note Voluntary Arts Ireland, or the Voluntary Arts Network, VAN, as it is known in Northern Ireland. Currently, the VAN works in a voluntary and professional capacity both North and South. Voluntary Arts Ireland links us to similar bodies in England, Scotland and Wales. Much work has been done in a voluntary capacity in a disjointed way around the country. Comhaltas has worked in the traditional arts but Senator Ó Murchú has covered the topic on the music side. Could we provide a link with Northern Ireland through the VAN, as there is a pilot project running in Donegal, Sligo and Fermanagh?

I echo the fine compliments that have been made about the Minister, Deputy Deenihan. Will he consider using his influence to ensure that out-of-work actors and those in the artistic community in general are treated a little more sympathetically by the Department of Social Protection, particularly in seeking benefits, because of the nature of their work? These people are not technically available for work in the real sense and the issue is an ongoing sore. Perhaps the Minister could use his influence in that regard?

Will the Minister consider encouraging RTE and TV3 to produce more costume drama to reflect our Irish culture, much of which he has contributed to today? This is in the context of "Downton Abbey", the costume series which won seven Emmy awards last Monday and is a worldwide hit. It is bringing in enormous sums not to the BBC but ITV, which is a commercial channel. As a result, it is now almost guaranteed that ITV will spend more on television drama.

In supporting the local community arts activities we must ring-fence funding for local arts activities. What are the Minister's thoughts on how to attract more film and television productions to Ireland? They contribute enormously to local communities. Does the Irish Film Board require more resources to become more proactive in bringing this type of business to Ireland?

I welcome the Minister. It is a sign of how vibrant and dynamic is the arts sector that so many people wish to speak in this debate. Some very strong ideas have been put forward and I hope the Minister will bear these in mind when devising and developing arts strategy.

I ask the Minister about creating a formal structure, not just with NAMA, as has been suggested, but with individual developers to ensure spaces can be made available at reduced rents or lower rates for arts activities, events and work. It would be a creative use of our resources to do so and there are good examples in Smithfield and the Fumbally Exchange where developers and landlords are amenable to these approaches.

Will the Minister return for a more structured debate on the arts in this House? We can put forward ideas and see them being put into effect in arts policy. For those in the Visitors Gallery who sat through the debate and those of us who have partaken, it is important to continue the debate on another occasion.

We are out of time but the Leader has indicated he will extend time for the Minister to reply.