I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 204 together.
Government policy on the arts is set out in the Programme for Government. In the context of the 2012 Estimates, I continued my endeavours to maximise ongoing Government support for the arts and culture sector. For 2012, the Exchequer allocation to the Arts Council, which is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts, is €63.241 million. I remain committed to securing the best possible level of funding for the arts sector. Under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations and my Department has no role to play in its executive or funding decisions. Within the current economic constraints, our investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever due to the employment intensity of the sector. The arts are a significant economic contributor and employer in their own right and they are also important building blocks for those economic policies the Government has identified as crucial for our economic recovery. The arts underpin policies in attracting foreign direct investment, in the creation of an imaginative labour force, in establishing an innovative environment in which the creative and cultural industries can thrive and in cultural tourism.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to "work with stakeholders in the Arts community to develop new proposals aimed at building private support of the Arts in Ireland exploring philanthropic, sponsorship or endowment fund opportunities". It may interest the Deputy to know that in May, I announced the introduction of a new philanthropic initiative on a pilot basis for arts and culture organisations. The initiative — the Philanthropy Leverage Initiative — is designed to encourage philanthropic sponsorship and endowment funding of the arts from private sources. The initiative, established with funding of €230,000 for 2012, will be managed by my Department and will provide an incentive to arts organisations to proactively seek new and multi-annual relationships with sponsors which deliver private sector financial support, thereby increasing overall funding available to the arts. It will be available across projects of varying scale, geography and art forms. Funding under this initiative will be available to not-for-profit organisations for arts programming projects. Organisations will have to procure matching funds and complete their drawdown in 2012. Matched funding cannot come from public funds or from any public sector organisation. Funding will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis until the overall ceiling of €230,000 has been reached. Further details are available on my Department's website, www.ahg.gov.ie.
The Leverage Initiative will run in parallel with a second initiative — the Philanthropy Capacity Building Initiative — which is operated by the Arts Council. Under this initiative, the Arts Council will provide one-to-one professional advice and direct funding support to a number of selected organisations to help them build and resource their capacity to attract philanthropic giving. This initiative will be delivered over two years and will be conditional on performance. In developing this complementary programme, the Arts Council has identified that it is vital for organisations to develop, agree and implement an effective fundraising strategy, and to properly resource that fundraising function. This is vital if organisations are to be supported by the State in diversifying their funding base.