Tá áthas orm Meastacháin 2013 do Vóta 33, don Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, a chur i láthair.
Members of the committee will be aware that my Department oversees the conservation, preservation, protection, development and presentation of Ireland’s heritage and culture. My Department also promotes the Irish language, supports the Gaeltacht and assists the sustainable development of island communities. A gross provision of almost €255 million is available to my Department for these purposes in 2013, with a further €8 million allocated to the National Gallery of Ireland Vote.
Between 2008 and 2013 the overall programme expenditure provision, excluding departmental administration for my Department's four programme areas increased by more than €262 million or 54%. In broad terms, the 2013 allocations to my Vote group are as follows: some €133 million for arts, culture and film, including almost €61 million for the Arts Council; some €47 million for the conservation and protection of Ireland’s built and natural heritage; almost €42 million for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands and over €40 million for North-South Co-Operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies - Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga.
As members will appreciate, a consequence of the significant fiscal deficit facing the country is that we just have not had the resources available to fund all the services that we would like to provide. However, failure to meet public expenditure targets now will have serious implications in the years ahead, including for our continued ability to maintain, promote and protect Ireland’s heritage and culture, to develop cultural tourism, to advance the use of the Irish language and to support the sustainable development of the islands.
The task ahead is how best to balance the competing demands of allocation reductions and the various upward pressures on expenditure, while at the same time maintaining the Department's core functions and the range of services provided to the public. In that context, I continue to place emphasis on supporting jobs in the audiovisual and wider arts sectors and in the Gaeltacht; investment in the culture and heritage sectors that will support cultural tourism as one of the most important elements of Ireland’s tourism product; complying with EU directives, including investment in alternative solutions for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting in special areas of conservation and supporting the built heritage, the strategic development of our national parks and the development of our waterways in the context of the implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements.
I propose now to provide some further detail and my ministerial colleague, Deputy Dinny McGinley, will speak about the relevant aspects of the Gaeltacht, Irish Language and Islands programmes. Some €133 million has been allocated to the arts, culture and film subheads, including the National Gallery of Ireland for 2013. This funding makes an important contribution to protecting jobs and stimulating creativity across the country. Ireland's cultural and creative industries also play a major role in defining a positive image for Ireland abroad.
My Department continues to place emphasis on front line services, as well as on prioritising supports to artists. For example, the priority for the national cultural institutions in 2013 is to keep venues open and to maintain services to the public as far as possible. This is to ensure that these institutions can continue to attract large numbers of people, including overseas and domestic tourists.
In relation to film making activities, I was very pleased that the Minister for Finance in his 2013 Budget Statement confirmed that he was extending the film tax relief scheme, section 481, until the end of 2020. This is a major vote of confidence in the audiovisual production sector by the Government and will assist in giving the sector continuity and certainty for the future and allow projects to proceed in the knowledge that this important underpinning of the industry will be there for the next seven years. In 2012 it sustained 7,500 jobs, reflecting an aggregate investment of some €260 million.
The largest single portion of capital funding for the arts will be channelled through the Irish Film Board, in recognition of its importance from a cultural and employment perspective. One of the key reasons Ireland continues to be chosen as a film location is the work the board does to promote Ireland in international film and television markets. The positive impact of this work is that it creates jobs in Ireland, leads to spending on local goods and services and promotes Ireland on the big and small screen to audiences of millions internationally. Given the significant investment in arts infrastructure in recent years, there is now a focus on ensuring resources are made available to support the operation of these facilities. Nevertheless, a small number of significant capital projects will continue to be supported this year, including the Solas cinema project in Galway, the Garage Theatre in Monaghan and the St. John's Square project in Limerick city.
The valuable work of the Arts Council in supporting the intrinsic cultural, tourism and economic value of the arts throughout the country has been recognised. This is reflected in the 2013 current allocation of almost €61 million. While this is a reduction of 4% on last year's provision, it will allow the council to continue to support arts organisations of varying sizes, from national bodies such as the Abbey Theatre to small local groups across a very broad range of individual art forms and practices.
In April my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, and I announced a further extension to the successful JobBridge national internship scheme which will provide for new internships in the arts sector. In association with the Arts Council, the new strand will provide exciting opportunities for those interested in careers in the arts. It will allow them to gain hands-on experience and enrich their skills. It will foster emerging talent in the arts and support local arts groups in theatre, film, visual arts, dance, music, literature and other areas of the arts.
Almost €8 million is provided for the Vote of the National Gallery of Ireland, in addition to the €125.5 million in funding provided for the arts, culture and film sector by my Department. In 2013 the gallery will continue to focus on delivering the best service possible within the resources available. Earlier this year I announced that additional resources of €10 million would be made available across 2014 and 2015 to facilitate the refurbishment of the historic Dargan and Milltown wings. Preliminary work in this regard will commence later in 2013.
I wish to speak about the heritage programme area. My Department remains committed to the conservation and protection of Ireland’s built and natural heritage for the enjoyment of present and future generations and national and international visitors. A provision of €47 million has been made available in this regard. A further €1.2 million in funding has been carried over from the 2012 capital provision. Following a critical review in 2012 under the public service reform programme, the funding provided for the Heritage Council in 2013 will support the council in facilitating the grant-aiding of heritage projects from various sources and engaging with and supporting local government and communities in capacity building and support. While the scope to provide resources for the protection of the built heritage is constrained by the current contraction in the public finances, my Department will continue to provide funding for conservation works to heritage properties and national monuments in State care. In addition, the structures at risk fund which was established in 2011 to assist with works to safeguard structures in private and civic ownership that are protected under the Planning and Development Acts will continue in 2013, with an allocation of €475,000.
My Department is helping to increase the awareness of our rich heritage among international visitors and citizens. It is doing this by maintaining close links with local government, the Office of Public Works, Fáilte Ireland and the Heritage Council, by participating in major events such as the ploughing championships and by establishing a presence online through the development of its website and new social media channels. I am particularly hopeful the historic towns pilot initiative which is being funded by my Department in 2013, with an allocation of €240,000, will contribute to the heritage-led regeneration of three of Ireland’s historic towns - Westport, Listowel and Youghal.
The key national heritage outputs in 2013 will focus on the maintenance, development, management and operation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This includes meeting the running costs of the six national parks and 78 nature reserves, undertaking development and improvement works to visitor facilities, funding conservation-related scientific surveys and reporting to meet obligations under EU directives. The dispersed locations of national parks and nature reserves mean that they bring significant economic and employment opportunities to rural communities. Despite the current economic challenges, I intend to invest in visitor facilities in these parks and reserves to maximise their sustainable use and contribution to national economic recovery. It is estimated that there are approximately 3 million visitors to NPWS properties each year. They play an increasingly significant role in increasing Ireland’s attractiveness as a tourism destination and investment location.
Turf-cutting and the protection of designated raised bogs continues to be a key concern. I remain determined to address the turf-cutting issue in a way that is fair, balanced and supportive of those affected. The compensation package approved by the Government as part of a special effort to resolve the turf-cutting issue and avoid the imposition on Ireland of major fines by the European Court of Justice will continue to be a major priority within the 2013 capital provision. Therefore, I have ensured funding towards achieving a resolution of this difficult issue has been allocated from my Department’s Voted expenditure and the environment fund for a redress package for those affected. Some €6.55 million will be made available for turf-cutting issues in 2013 between the Vote of my Department and the environment fund.
Just under €42 million has been allocated to the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands in 2013. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley, will speak about the relevant aspects of these areas in his statement to the committee.
A provision of almost over €40 million is available this year to support the two North-South Implementation Bodies within my Department's ambit - Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga which comprises Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency. The Minister of State will speak shortly about An Foras Teanga. Waterways Ireland which is responsible for the inland navigable waterway system receives 85% of its funding from the State and 15% from Northern Ireland. A provision of over €25 million is being made available from my Department this year. Members will be aware that funding for these bodies is provided by my Department and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in accordance with budgets approved by the North-South Ministerial Council. The 2013 budget is indicative only. It is subject to ongoing discussion with the co-sponsoring Department in Northern Ireland and the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council in due course.
I would like to refer briefly to two areas of significance within my Department's ambit - the EU Presidency and the decade of commemorations. Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union offered a new platform for cultural links with our key European partners. I oversaw the accompanying cultural programme which represented an important opportunity to showcase Ireland’s cultural heritage and artistic talent and to win positive publicity for Irish creativity on the European stage and further afield. Audience attendance has been strong, while feedback and media coverage have been very positive. In Berlin there were more than 1,200 attendees at the opening concert by the Gloaming. Visitor numbers to the "Changing States" art exhibition in Brussels have exceeded 8,000. The Centre Pompidou in Paris will attract approximately 500,000 visitors during the Eileen Gray exhibition.
The committee will be aware of a number of very important commemorations in the coming period. The decade from 1912 to 1922 was one of considerable economic, political and social change, not just in Ireland but in Europe and globally. I am proud to serve as chairman of the all-party Oireachtas consultation group on centenary commemorations which is dealing with the commemorative programme for the decade of centenaries. The programme will respect the various traditions on the island in a way that is sensitive, fair and reflective of our growth as a people of shared, disparate and, sometimes, conflicting interests, heritage and culture. I look forward to working with partners in both the North-South and east-west contexts as the various commemorative events take place in the years ahead.
I will be happy to expand on any matter Deputies may wish to raise after the Minister of State has made his contribution.