As the Deputy will be aware, my Department's Mission Statement includes the promotion and protection of Ireland's heritage and culture. In this regard, our national cultural institutions are a key part of cultural landscape and contribute hugely to the overall well-being of our society. Through their collections, staffing and contribution to knowledge, they are essential building blocks of the cultural identity and creativity of our country.
My Department also support a number of regional museums, galleries and cultural centres throughout the country, which complement the work of our national cultural institutions. In addition to this, there are a number of specific initiatives which are designed to increase cultural participation and inclusiveness in our cities and towns. For example, for the last number of years, my Department has provided funding towards the Culture Night initiative. This initiative has continued to grow on a yearly basis and in 2011 a record 30 towns and cities throughout the island of Ireland participated, showcasing the best of our artistic and cultural heritage. Plans for Culture Night 2012 are well advanced and it is hoped that this year's event will build on the success and popularity of previous years to create a unique offering of memorable experiences involving local arts, culture and heritage communities, which will hopefully stimulate repeat visits to cultural attractions.
The National Museum also supports an active programme of loans from its collections to local and regional museums throughout the country. My Department also operates a mobility of collections scheme under which funding is made available for local/regional galleries and museums for particular costs associated with collaborative projects with the National Cultural Institutions.
On the heritage side, my Department is currently promoting the role which Ireland's heritage has to play in making our country an attractive destination for sustainable tourism and inward investment, both in terms of the operation of Ireland's national parks and nature reserves, and in terms of our unique built heritage, which distinguishes us and which makes Ireland an attractive tourist location for both visitors and Irish people themselves. Cultural and heritage tourism is one of the most important elements of Ireland's tourism product and heritage properties, including those in State care, are an important element of that attraction.
My Department provides some limited funding under a number of headings for investment in the built and natural heritage, and also supports the Heritage Council and the Irish Heritage Trust in their work in the heritage area. However, the scope to provide additional funding for the protection, conservation and development of the State's built heritage is constrained by the current national economic difficulties and the significant reduction in the public finances. My Department is, therefore, focusing on working creatively across Government and with partner bodies, such as the Heritage Council, the Irish Heritage Trust, Fáilte Ireland, the LEADER Programme and other heritage interests, in seeking to ensure that resources are directed towards the heritage sector. My Department will also continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built and natural heritage, in so far as resources allow.