I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 163 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, The Gathering initiative undertaken by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, has the strong support of my Department and the agencies under my Department's remit. A range of the actions being taken to support The Gathering were outlined in my replies to Questions No. 16 of 28 November 2012, No. 13 of 30 January 2013 and No. 120 of 13 March 2013. The national cultural institutions are involved and have identified specific exhibitions and initiatives to focus on maximising a positive impression of the country internationally.
Culture Ireland is the Division of my Department responsible for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide. Through regular grant rounds, showcases and special initiatives it creates and supports opportunities for Irish artists and companies to present and promote their work at strategic international festivals and venues. Culture Ireland has included as a grant condition for 2013 events that grantees when presenting their work should promote The Gathering and encourage their audiences to embrace the initiative.
In addition, the thousands of arts events at festivals and elsewhere funded by the Arts Council are at the heart of The Gathering. While the primary purpose of Arts Council grants is to promote the arts, the Arts Council has long recognised the immense value of the events its funds to our tourism ‘offer’. The weather in Ireland can be unreliable, so it is vital that visitors have the option of experiencing the best of Irish contemporary culture – indeed, that is frequently why they come to our shores. Each event in The Gathering centres on a different and unique community in Ireland, and the arts are often what creates that distinctive sense of place. Senior officials at the Arts Council met with The Gathering last year to discuss how Arts Council events could best compliment the initiative.
The Deputy will be aware that Arts Council funding decisions are made independently of my influence, but I understand that a great number of arts organisations funded by the Arts Council are participating in The Gathering. This is particularly the case with festivals. In addition to major arts festivals such as the Galway Arts Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival or Cork Midsummer Festival, and the many important festivals relating to a single art form, such as Listowel Writers’ Week or Wexford Festival Opera, the Arts Council will this year invest some €8811,00 in 160 smaller festivals right around the country.
Údarás na Gaeltachta developed a dedicated scheme to support events & festivals in the Gaeltacht as part of the 2013 Gathering initiative. The scheme placed particular emphasis on activities aimed at attracting visitors to Ireland as part of the Gathering. As previously outlined, various initiatives are also underway in the heritage area.
I consider that my Department and its agencies are making a substantive contribution to The Gathering Initiative which will promote a positive image of the country internationally.