Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (10, 11, 12, 13)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

7Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of the fact that the European Commission will be investing over seventy billion euro in developing the creative economy across Europe his plans to develop/build Ireland’s creative economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35423/12]

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Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

29Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of the fact that the European Commission has launched a new call for a proposal (details supplied), his plans to develop the specific area of culture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35428/12]

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Michael Colreavy

Question:

30Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to foster links between Ireland and the rest of Europe in order to develop the growth potential in Ireland’s creative economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35425/12]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

31Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht the intergovernmental strategies he has planned to position culture, heritage, and the creative industries as the foundation of a new economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35424/12]

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Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 29 to 31, inclusive, together.

My officials and I are not aware of a European Commission source of funding which contains €70 billion for investment in projects or actions specific to the creative economy. There are two European Union programmes operating in the areas for which I have responsibility. The MEDIA programme is the support programme for the European audiovisual industry, details of which are available at www.mediadeskireland.ie. The Culture programme is the EU support programme for organisations working in the field of culture, with details available at www.ccp.ie.

For the 2007-13 period, the allocation to the MEDIA programme is €755 million, with €400 million being allocated to the Culture programme, giving a total of €1.155 billion over seven years. A further figure of €1.8 billion refers to discussions currently under way between member states and the European Commission on a new framework programme for the cultural and creative sectors. This is intended to run from 2014 to 2020 and to be called the Creative Europe programme. It includes a proposal to amalgamate the current Culture and MEDIA programmes under a common framework and to create an entirely new facility to improve access to finance. Once the new programme is finalised, details of how to seek funding from it will be made available through appropriate information outlets.

It is not possible to estimate how much any country will receive from any of these programmes as the funds are not distributed on a pro rata basis. Calls for proposals are made periodically by the European Commission. Applications are then assessed by an independent body, currently the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency. Decisions on what support is provided are based on the relative merits of applications. There is no quota for each country, nor is a specific amount allocated to each.

I understand the directorate general for enterprise and industry in the European Commission issued a call more than a year ago for proposals for transnational co-operation projects on European cultural routes , with up to €100,000 available per project. The entire fund available for the programme was €500,000 and the closing date for applications under this call was 7 October 2011. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald may be referring in her question to a European Commission call for co-operation projects to create transnational tourism products based on cultural and industrial heritage. The closing date for this programme is 28 September 2012 and up to €700,000 may be available in total for all 27 member states through the directorate general for enterprise and industry. The application form and details of the criteria are available on the Commission’s website, europa.eu.

The Government appreciates and values the contribution the wider arts sector makes to the reputation of this country. Given the prevailing economic constraints, investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever, having regard to the employment intensity of the sector. The Deputies will be aware that a report, Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland, published by the Arts Council in 2011 indicated that the arts sector provides significant direct and indirect employment, supporting some 21,300 jobs and contributing €306.8 million in taxes. The arts also affect the wider creative industries, which contribute €4.7 billion to the economy and support 79,000 jobs.

The heritage area is also increasingly identified as a primary stimulus in the tourism sector. My Department is committed to promoting greater appreciation and understanding of Ireland's rich heritage as a valuable amenity for business, farming and tourism and as a means of presenting Ireland as an attractive destination for sustainable inward investment. A report published by the Heritage Council last month indicates that Ireland's historic environment supports more than 35,000 jobs and contributes in the order of €1.5 billion to the national economy. It also indicates that one fifth of total visitor expenditure in Ireland is attributable to our historic environment.

Progression of the negotiations surrounding the Creative Europe initiative will almost certainly fall to the Irish Presidency of the EU. In pursuit of advancing the initiative, I have already been involved in numerous meetings with Ministers of culture from other member states, Members of the European Parliament and other European officials.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Unfortunately, he did not respond to my question on how much the new European initiative might be worth to Ireland and how one might apply to it. Will he provide more detail on the measures he intends to introduce to safeguard jobs in the sector?

I do not know where the Deputy came upon the figure of €70 billion to which she referred in her question. As I indicated, the allocation under the MEDIA and Culture programmes for 2007 to 2013 was some €1.1 billion, with €1.8 billion earmarked for the period from 2014 to 2020. I am very much engaged in the discussions on this programme with fellow member states. A proposal has come from the Commission to which the European Parliament must respond, after which a compromise will have to be reached. I am hopeful that an agreement might be reached during Ireland's Presidency and that the proposed allocation of €1.8 billion will be forthcoming.

It has come to my attention that we have not drawn down as much funding under this programme as we have under, for example, the Common Agricultural Policy. One of the reasons Irish groups and organisations might not have applied for grant aid from Europe under the programme is that the application process is complex. Another factor is that in recent years, before the collapse of the economy, there was generally sufficient State funding, including increased funding for the Arts Council up to 2008. We have done much better in respect of the MEDIA programme, not least because of the efforts of a very effective organisation called MEDIA Desk Ireland. The organisation has been highly effective in encouraging the industry to apply for funding under this programme. In this regard, I acknowledge the work done by Siobhán O'Donoghue and others.

While Irish organisations were not as successful in securing funding under the cultural programme, some organisations have secured funding and improvements have been made in the past year, with increases recorded in the number of applications submitted and the number of organisations receiving funds. One of the major challenges facing Irish organisations is the requirement to find partners in other countries. While it may be easy to find a partner in Northern Ireland, in cases where five or six partners are required organisations must find partners in countries on mainland Europe. It is easier for organisations located on the Continent, whether in the central and eastern European countries which acceded to the European Union in recent years or western European member states, to find partners because many of these countries share borders with other member states. This requirement places Irish organisations at a disadvantage.

I will seek to have a more accessible application form introduced for the new programme. I will also ensure the criteria are properly interpreted and assistance is provided to those applying under the programme. I have discussed this matter with the Arts Council and will certainly make it a priority. Given the likelihood that national funding for the arts will reduce in the coming three years, we must avail of every other source of funding. Organisations need to fully capitalise on this programme.

It is vital to draw down any grant aid that is available and I hope the Minister will take all necessary measures to ensure Irish organisations do so.

As I stated, one must apply for funding if one wishes to draw it down. More Irish organisations need to apply for funding. I have discussed this matter with my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Ms Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA. I have also encouraged the Arts Council to co-operate with its counterpart in Northern Ireland and look outwards to find like-minded partners in Europe. Perhaps they should focus on finding organisations in other Celtic countries and the Nordic states which share similar attitudes to us on culture and which may be applying for similar types of support. I will prioritise this programme with a view to increasing funding for Irish arts organisations.

The joint committee recently had protracted discussions with local authorities on arts funding. In advance of engaging with other member states before a new tranche of funding is announced - despite having sat through many committee hearings on the arts, this funding was new to me - will the Minister encourage local authorities, through their twinning arrangements with local authorities in other European Union member states, to produce initiatives in this area? As the Minister is aware, local arts officers in towns and counties are at the coalface of the arts. If they have developed relationships with organisations in other member states, they may be able to bring something to the table to assist the Minister in his efforts.

The Deputy makes a practical proposal. In the past year, I have met local authority arts and heritage officers who play a critical role in promoting the arts across the country. The Arts Council is a national organisation based in Dublin, whereas local authority arts officers do most of the work promoting the arts in small communities. I envisage an important role for arts officers in the new programme because they have already reached out and established a large number of twinning arrangements. Some towns are twinned with up to six partners around Europe. Given the connections that have been made under the twin towns arrangements, it may be possible to use them as a vehicle for capitalising on the programme. A great deal of work remains to be done.

As I stated, our approach to this programme in the past was not sufficiently serious, primarily because the process was complicated. Necessity means we must go through the process. I thank Deputy O'Donovan for his proposal. With Limerick set to become a city of culture in 2014, perhaps he will encourage arts organisations in the city and county to consider using the programme to maximise the amount of financial assistance available to Limerick for its 2014 programme.

I thank the Minister for the support his Department has provided for arts festivals and programmes in Galway, specifically the Galway Film Fleadh and Galway Arts Festival, the launch of which he attended last Monday. I also commend Galway county and city councils and the Western Development Commission on the support they have provided. I refer, in particular, to the Galway picture palace project, which I have discussed previously with the Minister. I hope the project will secure funding from the Department and the other bodies to which I referred because it would add to the cultural and artistic life of the city and county.

Galway has capitalised on culture to build a vibrant economy. Shortly after the recent Volvo Ocean Race festival, we had the opening of the Galway Film Fleadh, which has been followed by the Galway Arts Festival and in a couple of weeks the city will host the Galway Races. Galway is an example of a city that has used the arts and culture as a platform to rejuvenate itself and create a vibrant economy. This vibrancy was in evidence throughout the city and not only in the city centre when I visited Galway last week for the film fleadh.

As regards the Solas project to which the Deputy referred, my Department has committed a large sum of money to the initiative and its commitment will be honoured. Unfortunately, we do not have any further resources to allocate to the project. A shortfall of €1.1 million in funding must be provided before Solas can proceed. I appeal to the business sector and people in Galway to get behind the project. They will ultimately benefit from the proposed new facility as they will be able to watch films in the three cinemas that will make up the project. Moreover, the visitors who will be attracted to the city as a result will stay in hotels and guesthouses, which will benefit businesses. Given the absence of further funding for the project, I hope local people will take up the challenge and buy into the project to ensure it is completed, as I am certain it will be. Thus far, local businesses have not made any contribution to Solas, which is a large project worth more than €6 million, although I am aware that efforts are under way in this regard. Any town or city would be delighted to have a project that has received funding of more than €6 million. I appeal to people in Galway, especially in the city, to get behind the project.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.