I do not believe that there is any evidence to suggest that the Irish film sector is in decline. During the first seven months of 2004, 11 film projects were certified by my Department for the purposes of the section 481 tax relief. This is down somewhat from the 15 projects certified during the same period of 2003, but is very similar to the 12 projects certified during the first seven months of 2002. To date in 2004, my Department has certified 16 projects in this context.
I am aware that there are competitive pressures coming to bear on the effort to attract international film productions, particularly from economies where wage rates and other costs are far lower than in Ireland. However, we also have advantages, such as our use of the English language, our historical links particularly with the United States, the very high skill and experience levels of our film professionals, our relatively low level of bureaucracy, and the variety of locations available within quite short distances of one another. The Government has done its part in that film producers now have certainty going forward, as the section 481 scheme has been extended to 2008, with the amount that can be raised increasing substantially from 2005.
I have every confidence that Irish film-makers will take full advantage of this decision, and that our industry has a very bright future. The indications available to my Department suggest that there has already been quite a significant pick up in activity, and that producers are generally optimistic about the industry's prospects. It is my intention to travel to the United States early next year to support the efforts of the Irish Film Board to persuade film producers that Ireland is an attractive location for international film productions.