The Government's policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, to increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. I am continuing to work towards this goal with my Department and the agencies within its remit.
The Programme for Government 2011-2016, along with my Department’s Statement of Strategy, has the overall goal of promoting and developing Ireland’s world-class artistic and creative strengths at home and abroad, and maximising their societal, economic and reputational value for the country.
My Department is, therefore, actively engaged in promoting the benefit of arts and culture to the wider community throughout the country. Our mandate seeks to promote access to and participation in, the arts by all sections of Irish society and to support our national cultural institutions in their work to preserve, protect and present our heritage and cultural assets. The Deputy will appreciate, however, that I have no statutory function in relation to poverty and exclusion.
As the Deputy will know, responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved primarily to the Arts Council, as the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act 2003, the general functions of the Council include the following:
to stimulate public interest in the arts;
to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts; and
to assist in improving standards in the arts.
The Arts Council is a statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations, including in relation to its funding decisions. I understand that, while the Arts Council does not have any specific initiatives in place the sole purpose of which would be to combat poverty or promote social inclusion, inclusion and wide social access to the arts has long been a core value of the Arts Council The outcome of this can be seen in the Council's funding decisions across all art forms and areas of arts practice and, in particular, in the funding through Arts Participation grants and in the grants for arts activity for Young People, Children and Education. Furthermore, the Council recently considered the matter of social inclusion and has identified the twin areas of Education and of Public Access and Engagement as priorities. It is also the case that the Arts Council’s long-standing partnership with local authorities throughout the country is premised in part on the understanding that local authority arts programmes often seek to address those sections of society with little or limited access to the arts.