I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 71 and 81 together.
The Abbey Theatre and all theatre practitioners are a central part of our national culture and I take their concerns very seriously. While the correspondence I received last week from theatre practitioners raises concerns about the changing artistic model at the Abbey Theatre, I understand that more positive outcomes arising from these changes have also been recognised. I acknowledge the necessity for the Abbey Theatre, as with all theatres, to have a level of artistic freedom in terms of its programming, while also recognising the necessity for a strong working relationship with theatre practitioners. This is vital for the continued success of theatre in this country. I have written to both the theatre practitioners and the Abbey theatre on the issues raised last week.
The Arts Council had been engaging with the Abbey Theatre in recent months in relation to the quality of employment opportunities and remuneration rates that it provides for Irish based artists. This is the role of the Arts Council as the main funder of the Abbey Theatre and indeed other State supported theatres and arts organisations. I am reassured by the fact the Arts Council were already aware of and in discussions about this issue with the Abbey Theatre.
I note also that in a recent statement, the Abbey Theatre made clear that pays the actors it employs on terms and conditions agreed with Irish Equity, the actors' union. In presentation or in-association arrangements, the Abbey Theatre does not set the rate of pay which has been the prerogative of the producing companies. The Abbey Theatre has stated that this is to be reviewed as part of the dialogue with the theatre practitioners and I welcome that this review is to take place.
The Abbey has also confirmed that it will self-produce seven shows (one in partnership, led by the Abbey Theatre) on the Abbey stages in 2019. These productions will include five world premieres.
It is important to note that employees in every industry including those working in the Arts & Film sectors are entitled to all existing legal protections. In addition to existing legislation, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection brought forward legislation under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours. This legislation responds specifically to the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to address the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious work. The Bill was signed into law by the President of Ireland on the 12th December last.
I am pleased to have been able to deliver additional supports to this sector in line with Government commitments. In Budget 2019, funding for the arts and culture sector increased by €22.6m to almost €190m which represents an increase of 14% on 2018. This funding comprises of €148.2m in current expenditure and €41.7m in capital investment. This includes an increase to the Arts Council funding by almost €6.8m or 10% to a total of €75m made up of €6m in current expenditure, which is more than double the increase in 2018. The increased funding for the arts and cultural sector secured in Budget 2019 - in addition to the almost €1.2 billion in capital funding for culture, heritage and the Irish language in the ten-year National Development Plan published in 2018 - clearly shows that the Government is acting on the commitment to double funding for arts, culture and sport by 2025.