I thank the joint committee for its invitation. As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address it on the performance and expenditure targets of the Department during the first half of 2018. It has been a very significant year for my Department, with the launch of Project Ireland 2040 which, as we know, is a comprehensive national planning framework and associated ten-year national development plan. It explicitly recognises that our culture, language and heritage are essential parts of the sustainable development of the country and acknowledges the centrality of culture and creativity to our national development. For my part, it has afforded my Department an unprecedented opportunity to invest over €1 billion in our cultural, linguistic and heritage infrastructure to safeguard and future-proof this precious resource for generations to come. Of this investment, some €725 million will be invested directly in our cultural infrastructure, creative industries and enhancing the cultural experience for citizens. An investment programme of €285 million over the period of the plan emphasises the amenity value of our natural and built heritage. A further €178 million is being provided to support and protect the Irish language, Gaeltacht communities and communities on offshore islands. This is particularly fitting in 2018 as we celebrate Bliain na Gaeilge.
In April this year I was delighted that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, could join me in launching the historic capital investment plan for my Department on foot of Project Ireland 2040. The level of investment proposed will transform our cultural and heritage infrastructure across the country and represents an important statement for this and future generations. I look forward to implementing this programme of investment and seeing stakeholders and citizens alike reaping its rewards in the years ahead.
For my appearance today, members have been provided with a report by my Department outlining details of performance and expenditure across all programme areas during the first half of 2018. The 2018 Revised Estimates provide for a gross allocation of just under €303 million for my Department. In addition, a further €700,000 in capital funding was carried over from the 2017 provision. Gross total expenditure incurred by my Department in the period to 30 June was €143.5 million. This expenditure represents 47% of the overall 2018 gross allocation. My colleague, the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, and I will speak about the highlights in each programme area during the first half of 2018. I will commence with the culture programme and will be happy to expand later on any matter members may wish to raise.
Funding of €167.3 million is provided in 2018 for the culture programme. Total gross expenditure on programme A up to 30 June was just under €85 million, representing 51% of the 2018 programme allocation. A cornerstone of my Department's culture investment programme under the national development plan is the €460 million being set aside for the renovation of the national cultural institutions, the protection of the national collections and the enhancement of visitor experiences and services. The funding programme will build on the success of the renovation of the Milltown and Dargan wings of the National Gallery of Ireland and include significant capital investments across many of the institutions. This is a critical year for the appraisal, planning and design of these flagship projects, with a view to moving to the implementation phase in the following years. We have made progress on a number of key projects, including the redevelopment of the National Library of Ireland and the renovation of the National Archives. We are also moving other projects through the appraisal and evaluation stages, including the Natural History Museum and the Crawford Gallery in Cork.
Under a new culture and creativity programme, an investment of €265 million will be made in enhancing regional cultural infrastructure to ensure people in all parts of Ireland will enjoy opportunities to engage with the arts and culture; in the digitisation of the national collections to ensure they are preserved and made available to a global audience and in the expansion of the audio-visual sector as a key element of the Government’s creative industries investment. In June this year my Department launched a major new strategy for the audio-visual industry which will guide the €200 million Project Ireland 2040 investment in expanding this vital creative industry.
The Creative Ireland programme goes from strength to strength and continues to enable increased creativity and access to cultural activity across communities. The funding provided for the programme has meant huge progress under pillar 1 - creative youth. Working in partnership with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, and the Arts Council, we launched Creative Schools in March. Some 10% of all schools in the country applied for inclusion in the pilot programme and 150 were chosen from 400 applications. Over 38,000 students will have access to this initiative during this year and into next year which will explore the potential impact of the arts and creativity on school life.
Funding provided for local authority culture teams from my Department and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has led to the development of ambitious and challenging five-year culture and creativity strategies for each local authority. All 31 were launched last week by me, the Taoiseach and my colleague, the Minister for Housing Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. With the additional funding provided this year, local authorities have risen to the challenge of rolling out the Creative Ireland programme in communities all over Ireland and already doubled the initiatives to over 500, with more expected by year end. On 23 June Cruinniú na n-óg was the first national day celebrating children and young people’s creativity and it was a great success. The funding provided allowed local authorities to hold over 500 events and initiatives throughout the country free of charge. Events ranged from photography to theatre and drama to coding. The culture teams in the local authorities showed imagination and innovation in their approach.
In May I launched the Creative Ireland programme scheme seeking new partnerships across the various creative activities. There was huge interest expressed and I will make a formal announcement in the coming weeks of up to 30 new partnerships focusing on creative industries, the environment, film and media, heritage, music, theatre and drama, the arts, including the visual arts, and, of course, mental health. I look forward to feeding the learning from the new partnerships into wider Government policy, making the Creative Ireland programme a real cross-government initiative.
This year will also see the presentation of Culture Ireland GB18, a special year long programme to celebrate and renew the unique cultural relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. Over 100 Irish artists are touring England, Scotland and Wales in celebration of this unique cultural connection, as well as forging new connections which it is hoped will be further developed in future years, ensuring our close cultural bonds for the future.
In the context of the culture programme, it would be remiss of me not to mention the new cultural and heritage centre at the Bank of Ireland, College Green which opened its doors to the public in July. Bank of Ireland has generously made space available to the State for the centre for a ten-year period, during which time my Department will manage and animate the space. The first exhibition in the centre is "Listen, Now, Again", an exhibition exploring the life and works of the Nobel prize winning poet Séamus Heaney which is being run and curated by the National Library of Ireland and certainly worth visiting.
I am happy to expand on any issue members would like to raise in respect of this programme area before proceeding, or I will move on to the section on heritage, if the Chairman prefers.