Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Arts Funding

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

26. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which extra expenditure is planned for the arts with particular reference to the need to maximise opportunities for employment in the sector and enhance the image of Ireland at home and abroad with obvious economic benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24296/19]

The purpose of the question is to encourage investment in the arts at local and national level, with a view to enhancing the country's image in the arts world in general and to encourage interest at local and national level.

In 2019, funding of €339 million was allocated for developing culture, heritage and the Irish language. This is an increase of €36 million, or 12%, on the previous year. This compares with a 5% increase in overall voted public expenditure in 2019.

Primary support for the arts is delivered through the Arts Council, whose funding has increased in recent years and now stands at €75 million in 2019, an increase of €6.8 million, or 10%, over 2018. The Arts Council, which is independent in its funding decisions under the Arts Act 2003, operates within a published ten-year strategic framework, entitled Making Great Art Work. This strategy prioritises support for artists throughout their careers by the involvement of many agencies in cultural provision, by the impact of the arts on the creative economy and by the depth and breadth of people's engagement with the arts. For example, the Arts Council now includes, as an assessment criterion, the organisation’s policy on the remuneration of artists in an effort to ensure that organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding should offer fair and equitable remuneration to artists.

My Department supports a broad range of programmes and initiatives across its remit to promote Ireland’s image, including, in particular, the Creative Ireland programme and Culture Ireland. The remit of Culture Ireland, which is a division of my Department, is to promote and advance Irish arts worldwide, thus strengthening Ireland’s cultural profile and global reputation. Strategic priorities include providing support for the international presentation of Irish artists and arts organisations, developing new and diverse international audiences and markets for Irish arts, and linking culture into the Government’s international promotion strategy, in tandem with other relevant Government agencies. Critically, the work of Culture Ireland is focused not just on promoting Ireland but also increasing career opportunities for Irish artists.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The cumulative impact of these funding increases is further testament to the commitment to double Government spending in the arts, culture and heritage sector. My Department and I will continue to work rigorously with all of my Government colleagues towards delivering on the commitment to increase Government spending in the arts and culture sector on a trajectory that will see funding doubled by 2025. In this context, I am already delivering additional supports to the arts and culture sector, building on the €1.2 billion earmarked for culture, heritage and the Irish language under Project Ireland 2040, thus leading to increased activity and employment across all sectors under the remit of my Department.

I thank the Minister for her informative reply. I ask the degree to which philanthropists can be encouraged to assist in the very wide programme at both local and national level. I also ask the degree to which young people, through the schools perhaps, can be encouraged to take an interest in the arts with a view to participation in the future, to becoming directly involved or to achieving employment in that area.

Philanthropy is always something to be welcomed. The Deputy mentioned Creative Schools and how schools can be involved. The Creative Schools pilot project is one of the flagship projects of Creative Youth and each participating school has access to creative associates, who are essential in embedding inspiration and sustainable creative practices in teaching and learning. They are a mixture of practising artists, arts practitioners and teachers with an understanding of creativity and its potential to transform the lives of children and young people.

There is also the creative funding that was mentioned in regard to County Kildare. A lot of cultural funding is going into Kildare this year, as it did last year, to help young people. There is also Cruinne na nÓg, which will be taking place this Saturday and in which the Deputy may be interested.

I ask the degree to which the Department continues to monitor the progress of the programme under the various headings, with a view to expanding and increasing employment in the arts and improving the image nationally and internationally, not that it needs improving but in order to get appreciation from a wider audience. To what extent is that happening? Are there measures that might be deemed necessary in order to enhance and improve further the opportunities within the arts for those either directly or indirectly involved?

Continuous monitoring is undertaken by my Department at all stages in regard to any financial aspect. Obviously, there is the breakdown of investment in our culture, language and heritage overall in the 2018-27 plan. Some €1.2 billion was provided as part of Project Ireland 2040, we have €460 million going into our national cultural institutions, €265 million for our culture and creativity investment programme, €285 million for our natural and built heritage and €178 million for the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and the islands.

On the international stage, which the Deputy mentioned, Global Ireland is the Government's strategy for doubling the impact of our global footprint through a range of measures, including by promoting Irish arts, heritage and culture to new generations and new audiences across the world. This sets out a number of objectives for my Department and there has been significant progress on a number of these objectives, including the appointment of cultural ambassadors, a conference of cultural stakeholders and the provision of capital funding by my Department for the Irish arts centre in New York and the London Irish arts centre.

Waterways Ireland Funding

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

27. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to increase the level of capital funding for Waterways Ireland in 2019 and 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24061/19]

Based on a presentation by Waterways Ireland at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, I gather that there is a need to expand its capital budget. Thankfully, usage of waterway facilities is significant. There is a need for ongoing maintenance and improvement of facilities that are being used and that attract great numbers of visitors to our country. I understand that the budget last year for capital programmes was €7.8 million, of which €2.6 million was from Waterways Ireland's resources. It is a small capital budget for such a vast area of State property so there is an urgent need to increase the capital funding available and ensure that necessary maintenance and upgrading of facilities are carried out to make sure our waterways continue to be a prime tourist attraction.

Waterways Ireland is responsible for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of 1,000 km of the inland navigable waterway system throughout the island - principally for recreational purposes, including the lower Bann navigation, Erne system, Shannon-Erne waterway, Shannon navigation, Grand Canal, Royal Canal and Barrow navigation.

Waterways Ireland is co-funded by my Department and the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland. The current expenditure of the body is funded 85% by my Department and 15% by the Department for Infrastructure, which reflects the distribution of the navigable waterways in each jurisdiction. Capital expenditure is funded 100% in the jurisdiction in which the capital works are carried out. In addition, development work has been sustained through attracting third part investment from a wide range of sources.

Waterways Ireland's work programmes are critical to providing a safe and high-quality recreational environment for the public while also preserving the industrial and environmental heritage of the waterways for future generations. These challenges must be balanced with its objective of increasing recreational activity across all our waterways.

The Estimates for 2019 have provided for an allocation of €25.117 million for Waterways Ireland, comprising €20.737 million in current funding and €4.38 million in capital funding. This is an overall increase of €1 million on the original 2018 allocation with capital funding increased by €800,000. Additional funding from Waterways Ireland in 2019 is not contemplated by the Estimates process and it will, like all other agencies under my remit, need to live within its capital allocation.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

As Minister, I have many competing and compelling requests for funding in 2020. I am acutely aware of the value of our inland waterways' amenity and the excellent work that Waterways Ireland carries out. Of particular importance is the strong community and business outreach and partnership policy that the organisation has implemented to engage with and deliver services for communities adjacent to the waterways to create social, recreational, health and economic benefits. The inland waterways are also an intrinsic part of the island's tourism attractions and Waterways Ireland plays a key role in their marketing and promotion.

I gather from a previous reply that capital funding in 2018 was €5.18 million directly from the Government in addition to Waterways Ireland's own funding. The Minister mentioned a figure for 2019 of €4 million. I do not know how an increase has come about. Was she referring to Waterways Ireland drawing down funding from other programmes? Could she clarify that?

Can she also confirm that the capital works that were promised regarding the provision of moorings at Castle Saunderson with the restoration of part of the Ulster Canal will be carried out this year? It is nearly 30 years since the Shannon-Erne Waterway was made navigable. These facilities have been used extensively and have attracted a significant number of tourists to the Fermanagh-Cavan-Leitrim area as well as counties Roscommon and Longford. There is a need to upgrade the facilities. Perhaps the Minister could indicate to the House whether particular programmes will benefit the Shannon-Erne waterway and ensure that it continues to be the major attraction it has been for most of the past 30 years.

The figures I have given are the correct ones for capital and current funding. The Deputy mentioned the Ulster Canal. In July 2007, the North-South Ministerial Council agreed to a proposal to restore the section of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones. Planning approvals for the project have been secured from the relevant authorities in both jurisdictions. Government approval to restore a 2.5 km stretch of the Ulster Canal from the upper Lough Erne to the international scout centre at Castle Saunderson, which was mentioned by the Deputy, near Belturbet in County Cavan was secured on 24 February 2015. Work to extend navigation on the Ulster Canal from the upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson was completed in December 2018 with a bypass canal channel and a new bridge at Derrykerrib. Installation of moorings at Castle Saunderson has been completed to enable its use as a destination for boats using the newly opened navigation from the Erne to Castle Saunderson. To date, more than €3 million has been spent on the entire Ulster Canal project. Expenditure of €1.13 million completed this portion of the navigation in 2018.

I reiterate that I welcome the usage of the facilities. There is a need for a comprehensive capital programme to ensure that they remain up to standard in order that they can continue to attract visitors. I again appeal to the Minister to ask Waterways Ireland to revisit the proposal we discussed in this House previously regarding the possibility of making the Erne navigable from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra. It would be a major project but if an indication was given by the Minister, her Department and Waterways Ireland that some progress could be made in the planning of that project, it would be a worthwhile development.

RTÉ recently ran a story on pollution by the ESB. I do not know whether the Minister has had any communications with Waterways Ireland to ensure the ESB funds any works required to undo the damage the company has done.

Will the Minister ask Waterways Ireland the reason no enhancement works have been carried out on the Grand Canal between Harold's Cross and Blackhorse? I have put this question to previous Ministers. What Waterways Ireland has done in all other areas is fabulous but no works have been carried out on paths and towpaths in that area and there are no moorings. There is a need to address that. Is it because this section of the canal goes through a mainly working-class area or is it because this is a forgotten part of the canal?

Have Waterways Ireland and-or the ESB advised the Minister of these reports of pollution of the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal that were carried in all national newspapers recently? Could she share what information she has received as the Minister with overall responsibility? The issue of pollution in the canals in Dublin is concerning. Similar to facilities in the North and the Border area, these canals are significant amenity resources. Does the Minister have a policy whereby when Waterways Ireland undertakes any initiatives in conjunction with local authorities, it advises local residents what the proposals are, particularly in respect of protecting the wildlife corridors that exist along the canals?

Deputy Brendan Smith mentioned Lough Erne and some of the other works he would like carried out. Waterways Ireland officials met the chief executive officer of Cavan County Council and its elected representatives in 2017 and earlier this year in the context of the Ulster Canal advisory forum.

I note the comments of Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Burton on pollution. I can come back to them with a full report, which I do not have to hand. One of Waterways Ireland's main priorities is the maintenance of canals and delivering a prioritised management and maintenance programme for the waterways concentrating available resources on their greatest area of use and benefit. It also wants to increase the use of inland navigations creating and promoting recreational opportunities for local communities and visitors, and delivering economic, social and health benefits. I can come back to Deputy Ó Snodaigh regarding the moorings at Harold's Cross.

In response to Deputy Burton's point about residents and their views, public consultations are usually undertaken, but I can certainly bring back the Deputy's concerns to Waterways Ireland.

Performing Arts

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

28. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the increased pressure placed on persons in the performing arts and screen industry in relation to pay, conditions and general employment rights; her further views on the cultural value of the industries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24080/19]

I wish to ask the Minister her views on the increased pressure that is placed on persons in the performing arts and screen industry regarding pay and conditions and general employment rights, and her further views on the cultural value of those industries.

I am acutely aware of the decades-long difficulties faced by those who wish to engage in artistic pursuits, be it on a global stage or domestically. The Government is committed to increasing funding for the arts. In the past two years, I have secured a significant increase in funding for artists, primarily through the Arts Council, which the Deputy will be aware has experienced an increase of 15% in its annual funding since 2017 to €75 million in 2019. In addition, the Government has allocated €1.2 billion in capital funding for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht over the ten years to 2027 as part of the national development plan. That includes €200 million for the Audiovisual Action Plan, which sets out the Government's commitment to investing in the screen industry.

In tandem with securing additional funding, my Department has also worked to address conditions and employment rights in the performing arts and screen industry in conjunction with the relevant agencies under its remit. For example, the Arts Council, as part of its assessment of applications for funding now requires details of an organisation's policy on the remuneration of artists in an effort to ensure that organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding offer fair and equitable remuneration to artists.

Regarding the screen industry, which we recently discussed, the film regulations require all applicants for section 481 tax credit to include with their applications a signed undertaking in respect of quality employment, which requires both the producer company and the qualifying company to comply with all obligations in the field of environmental, social and employment law. The producer company and the qualifying company must be responsible for compliance with all statutory requirements of an employer and have in place written policies and procedures on grievances, discipline and dignity at work. The companies are also required to provide details of any Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, decisions aligned with confirmation that any findings against the companies have been followed or an explanation where the finding has not been followed. That is now a key requirement in the application process. Screen Ireland also has similar requirements for companies in receipt of its funding.

We all acknowledge the importance of arts and culture. My question is how we show that in reality. I am not just talking about increased funding to the Arts Council; I am talking about the precarious nature of the work, the lack of stability, the short-term contracts and how very difficult it is for the majority working in the arts area to make a living. I wish to stray into the area of social protection. There is a need for a social welfare payment for those involved in the arts industry when they are out of work. We know there is jobseeker's allowance and jobseeker's benefit. Given the questions that are being asked of artists and actors to avail of either scheme, the system does not seem to take into account the sporadic nature of the work. The circumstances of professional actors are unique and they do not suit the current JobPath programme.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, has introduced a pilot scheme for the arts, which was welcomed by the National Campaign for the Arts, but it is limited to those who are self-employed artists in just two specific communities, that is, literature and visual art, and the majority of working artists do not have access to that. Does the Minister communicate with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the issue because it is directly related to people who are working in the arts and culture area?

The Deputy is correct that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and my Department are running a pilot project. We are currently engaged in positive discussions to amend the system to encompass some of the people delineated by the Deputy. However, it is a work in progress, which I hope to expedite as soon as possible.

Employees in every industry and sector are entitled to all existing legal protections of employment law and the performing arts and film industries are not exempt. There can be a perception that they are, but they are covered under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018, which was signed into law by the President in December. It will also improve the situation of insecurity and unpredictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts, which the Deputy mentioned, and those working variable hours.

What I have heard from the actors whom I have met is that when they have to engage with the social protection system for a particular payment, the questions they are asked bear no reality to the facts of the kind of work they do and the precarious nature of the work.

Going back to the other aspect of this question, the debate we had before the recess followed a briefing in the audiovisual room from those who have been working in the film industry. The issues were protection for workers and health and safety complaints procedures, among others. The reality of what we heard that day was compelling, including passionate stories from people who have been working in the industry for many years. They say that they have been blacklisted because of issues they raised and they have not been able to secure work. Everybody in the audiovisual room agreed with the need to engage in some type of forum, yet when the Minister made her speech on this, she said that she felt it was not possible to have a collaborative approach now. The current situation is intolerable for many of those who have been working in the industry for a long time. They are now out of work and their skill set is being lost. Will the Minister consider supporting a forum?

Recent changes to section 481 address bullying and other such issues. From 28 March, all applicants for section 481 funding, including producer companies and the qualifying companies, are required to sign an undertaking that they have in place written policies and procedures on grievances, discipline and dignity at work, which includes harassment, bullying and equal opportunity. That means employers now have an obligation to provide workers on their productions with a workplace that is free of harassment, bullying and intimidation. The obligation includes ensuring that workers are not harassed, bullied or intimidated by other workers. If the producer companies or the qualifying companies cannot provide workers with a proper workplace environment they will not be able to obtain section 481 tax relief.

We discussed the film forum at length on the previous occasion. It is something I am concerned about. I have instructed my officials to examine a way of mediating this dispute. I know that issues arose from the presentation in the audiovisual room, even among the people in the room itself. There is evidently a deep difference in the views and feelings of those involved. If we seek to try to deliberate on an alternative route, we may be able to work something out.