Since 2012, the week around the St. Patrick's Day festival has been designated as the international week of Irish culture. That year was essentially the first of a five-year development plan in this regard, with the emphasis on the launch of an international celebration of the Irish culture brand and a series of programme activities based in existing cultural venues around the Merrion Square-Kildare Street areas of Dublin, marketing the message of "I Love My City".
Last year, the international element had Culture Connects, the international culture programme of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as its key focus. The domestic element of the celebration took place over an extended four-day period and featured 16 free headline events staged in the surroundings of some of our most prestigious cultural institutions and venues.
This year is year three of the initiative, and the I Love My City programme will again feature an array of diverse and eclectic cultural events, showcasing established and emerging artists from a variety of disciplines, including literature, music, film, visual arts and the spoken word. The domestic cultural programme will take place throughout the four days of the festival and some of our most well known cultural institutions and venues will play host to events, including the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Concert Hall, the National Library of Ireland, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, the Royal Hibernian Academy, RHA, and Archbishop Marsh's Library.
Internationally, my Department, through its Culture Ireland programme, has allocated funding of approximately €250,000 to more than 40 events in 18 different countries taking place over the St. Patrick's Day period. The aim is to enhance the overall impact of the period by promoting Irish arts and culture on the international stage at a time when the spotlight of the world is on Ireland.
I am satisfied that, far from being soulless, the St. Patrick's Day festival provides a wonderful opportunity, which is being well utilised, to showcase Irish culture and heritage at home and abroad.