Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Ceisteanna (25)

Bernard Durkan


25. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to make provisions for various issues in the cultural and heritage area which, in turn, are likely to have a beneficial economic impact; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10153/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Culture)

This question, like similar ones Deputies have pursued in the past, relates to the extent to which we should continue to encourage and generate greater interest in the wealth of our heritage and culture for the benefit of the population and internationally, with obvious beneficial economic consequences.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government invests in culture and heritage for their intrinsic value but also recognises the valuable economic contribution the sectors can make.  For example, the creative economy is now recognised as a leading sector in generating economic growth, employment and trade in many advanced economies. In 2010 it was estimated that the cultural and creative industries contributed around 2.6% of the total GDP of the European Union, providing around 5 million jobs across the 27 EU member states. In Ireland, in the same year, a report commissioned by the Arts Council estimated that the creative industries overall contributed more than €4.7 billion to the economy, equivalent to approximately 3% of GDP, while the number of jobs supported in aggregate amounted to 78,900. This underpins the importance attached to culture and heritage in the recently launched Project Ireland 2040, the comprehensive national planning framework and associated ten-year national development plan which provides for a significant investment of in excess of €1 billion in culture and heritage in the next ten years.  It also provides for an additional €178 million to support the Irish language, a key element of our cultural identity, and protect our unique Gaeltacht and Island communities.  The level of this investment which is unprecedented under a national development plan will inevitably have a beneficial economic impact.  I will shortly launch this element of the plan. I was hoping to launch elements of it with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Pashal Donohoe, and my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Joe McHugh, but it has been postponed until a later date.

The national cultural institutions investment programme worth €460 million will see economic opportunities for the construction sector in the short run but will have a long-term economic benefit to Dublin and Cork from its tourism dividend, as well as providing much needed upgrades at these important national institutions.  As part of the culture and creativity investment programme under the national development plan and aligned with the Creative Ireland programme, we will be investing heavily in the audio-visual industry as a cornerstone of the creative industries and bringing an economic dividend for the sector and the areas in which audio-visual content, including films, is produced.  

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

On the heritage side, we will invest €285 million in a broad range of projects across the country, from enhancing visitor facilities at national parks and nature reserves and providing incentives for the restoration of the historic cores of towns, villages and cities to works to protect national monuments and inland waterways.  All of these investments will yield a positive economic impact from the jobs created from the works to the long-term benefits to local economies from the improved tourism offering, particularly in the national parks which are primarily on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way and present an opportunity for enhanced tourism development, as well as conserving the beauty of natural landscapes.

I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply and congratulate her on her activity in the area and her intentions. To what degree does she intend to broaden the level of interest in cultural issues through the education system and the media generally, including international media outlets, in an effort to promote tourism and continue to encourage the creation of employment through participation from abroad as well as from home?

My Department will be working closely with other Departments in order to ensure we will implement the plans set out in the national planning framework and the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040. There is a later question on creative youth schemes.

It is the next question.

I thank the Deputy. I will speak about that issue. Suffice it to say it is a pilot project involving 150 schools. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan spoke about education. It is very important we bring forward the scheme. We are investing €460 million under the national cultural investment programme which will be really transformative in bringing many of the national cultural institutions into the 21st century. Many of the projects are at appraisal, planning and design stage, while many are flagship projects. We will be hoping to move to the delivery phase in the coming years and will be able to add to the list into the future.

On the heritage side, some €285 million has been allocated which will create employment and help us to invest in national parks and nature reserves. The number of visitors has increased from 2.5 million to 4 million in just over ten years. We need to have the infrastructure we require to ensure we can cope with the steady increase in the number of visitors. It will also help in promoting tourism.

To what extent is it intended to use promotional means to popularise heritage sites? I once had the privilege of visiting the rock of Masada when its importance was emphasised. We have many sites in this country that date back more than 5,000 years to the time of the pyramids. To what extent does the Minister foresee opportunities arising to merge our cultural, heritage and historical sites in a package to attract national and international interest?

The national development plan emphasises the amenity value of the natural built heritage. It is a €285 million investment plan. I have mentioned the national parks and nature reserves and how we need to be in a position to cope with the number of new visitors with better infrastructure. We want to help our invaluable natural assets and have hubs for outdoor activities and to promote tourism.

On the built heritage, to which the Deputy referred, it is the historical core of cities, towns and villages. We must protect and try to regenerate it, where possible. We must also protect castles, forts and mounds. The inland waterways are not just an engineering marvel but also an amenity within the national tourism offering. I intend to ramp up investment into the future, including in the restoration of the Ulster Canal. The plan also provides for implementation of national guidelines for the protection of our unique landscapes. We will be able to implement the national biodiversity plan into the future.