Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Questions (19)

Niamh Smyth


19. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the way in which the €725 million allocated in the capital plan will be spent on cultural infrastructure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10375/18]

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Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Culture)

The Government recently launched Project Ireland 2040, which is a comprehensive national planning framework and associated ten year national development plan. Project Ireland 2040 explicitly recognises that our culture, language and heritage are an essential part of the sustainable development of the country. It was anticipated that I would launch this element of the plan with An Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe and Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh. This launch has been postponed due to the sneachta.

The plan acknowledges the centrality of culture and creativity to our national development. It is unprecedented in this type of statutory planning framework, as is the commitment to investment in excess of €1 billion in our culture and heritage over the next ten years. Of this investment some €725 million will be invested directly in our cultural infrastructure, in our creative industries and in enhancing cultural experience for our citizens.

As outlined in Project Ireland 2040, €460 million will be spent on the national cultural institutions investment programme. Over the ten years of the plan, this will see: the renovation of the National Library of Ireland; significant enhancements at the National Archives of Ireland; investment at a number of sites of the National Museum of Ireland commencing with the Natural History Museum; the renovation of the National Concert Hall and Crawford Art Gallery; the completion of the National Gallery of Ireland master development plan; the redevelopment of the National Theatre and projects at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and at the Chester Beatty Library. These projects will be sequenced and prioritised having regard to the outcome of the evaluation and planning processes in line with the public spending code.

A further €265 million has been made available under the national development plan for a culture and creativity investment programme. This investment programme will be closely aligned with the Creative Ireland programme. Key areas for investment under this programme will be a programme of investments in regional arts and culture facilities to enhance opportunities for communities to participate in Irish cultural life; investment in our creative industries with a particular focus on the audio-visual sector which represents an important economic opportunity for Ireland; a programme for the digitisation of our national collections; and investment in Galway 2020 for its year as an EU Capital of Culture. I look forward to launching this element of the plan.

We look forward to the Minister's announcement on this over the coming days. Project Ireland 2040 states that “the aggregate level of investment in Ireland’s cultural infrastructure over ten years is estimated at €725 million”. This represents a mere 0.625% of the €116 billion plan. It is not clear how much of this money is new and how much is already accounted for in existing spending allocations to projects already in hand. The plan indicates, for example, that €15 million is being spent on the Natural History Museum. This project is described as being in development. Will the Minister indicate if this €15 million was previously announced and allocated? Will the Minister identify how much of the money announced in the plan is new money and not previously announced money?

The breakdown of allocations for culture, heritage and the Irish language over the next five years is as follows: €54 million in 2018, €75 million in 2019, €76 million in 2020, €80 million in 2021 and €110 million in 2022. It is important to say that the infrastructure project steering group, which will be set up shortly by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, will include senior officials from all Departments. This will be a primary vehicle for cross-sectoral dialogue for implementation and will provide essential reports of progress under the plan within the Department. The Deputy referred to value for money. All investments under project 2040 will be subject to rigorous appraisal and evaluation in line with the public spending code. All options will be looked at prior to committing any funding on the project. There will be robust project management throughout the implementation phase and regular reports on expenditure and delivery against clear targets and milestones.

In particular, 2018 will see us focus on the appraisal, planning and design of many of the flagship projects with a view to moving to the delivery phase in the following years.

The national cultural institutions are to undertake a €460 million phased investment programme over ten years, as the Minister has outlined. The plan gives concrete budgets and completion dates for just three of those projects: the Crawford Gallery, the National Library of Ireland and the Natural History Museum. Combined, these projects are to cost €31 million. Rather than giving any detail as to how the remaining €411 million is to be spent on the national cultural institutions we have simply been provided with a list of those institutions. This mirrors the vagueness of the capital investment plan 2016-2021 wherein it was stated “there will also be investment in cultural infrastructure, including the National Cultural Institutions and Regional Arts and Cultural Centres”. Will the Minister outline how exactly she plans on investing in the national cultural institutions?

Many of the projects referred to by the Minister are some of our most important cultural institutions but I urge the Minister to not forget about the regional arts and cultural centres that can be the lifeblood of communities outside the main cities. I hope the focus does not remain on our urban city centres and that the Minister remembers rural Ireland and the more isolated regional arts centres that do phenomenal work in our communities in keeping rural Ireland going.

Deputy Smyth is correct that regional arts must to be to the forefront in the national development plan and in our particular sector investment.

It will be part of the €725 million about which the Deputy asked. That €265 million in effect implements pillar 3 of Creative Ireland in relation to a culture and creativity investment programme. One of the key areas for investment is a programme of investment in regional arts and cultural facilities to enhance opportunities for communities to participate in Irish cultural life. There will also be investment in creative industries with an emphasis on audio-visual and also digitisation of our national collections. For example, the National Archives welcomed about 12,000 visitor during 2015, when there was 1.4 million hits online. It is necessary that we bring services up to the 21st century and we will do that. The list will be added to once we have got past the appraisal, planning and design phase to implementation phase over the next five years. Understandably, what most of the cultural institutions will be doing now is setting out master plans as to how they will use the money in the future. The main ones we will start with are the National Archives of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, the National History Museum, the renovation of the National Concert Hall, the Crawford Gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Theatre and projects with the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Chester Beattie Library.