Thursday, 12 December 2019

Ceisteanna (4)

Mick Barry


4. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures she is taking to double arts funding by 2023; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52178/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

I ask the Minister to set out the position with regard to the Government's plan to double arts funding.

Primary support for the arts in Ireland is delivered by the Arts Council.

Funding for the Arts Council has been increasing steadily in recent years and will reach €80 million in 2020. The increase in 2020 is €5 million or 6.7% on 2019. 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, the impact of the arts on the creative economy and the depth and breadth of people's engagement with the arts. The additional funding will allow the Arts Council to enhance its support for all artists, arts festivals, street arts and family events.

The allocation to the Arts Council in 2020, should be considered in conjunction with the significant funding in 2020 of more than €7 million from my Department to support the 2020 European City of Culture, Galway. This is a significant sum to support artistic and creative activities in 2020.

The remit of Culture Ireland, 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.

Total funding for the arts and culture sector will increase by over 2% in 2020 from €189 million to just under €193 million composed of €153 million in current expenditure and €39.7 million in capital. My Department and I will continue to work with all my Government colleagues to deliver on the commitment to increase Government spending on arts and culture and double funding for the sector by 2025. 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.

Funding for the Arts Council will increase from €75 million in 2019 to €80 million 2020. Is it not the case that only €1.25 million of the increase is a new injection of money in that €3.75 million, or three quarters of it, has been rejigged from one corner of the Department to another, in this case the Arts Council? It is a sham, therefore, to speak of €5 million in extra funding.

Culture Ireland had funding of €4.6 million last year. Is it not the case that funding this year is €4.1 million and has, therefore, been cut? My question referred to the doubling of arts funding by 2025. The Minister referred to a 2% increase this year. Can she show us the roadmap for moving from funding of €158 million in 2017, when the commitment was made, to €316 million by 2025? If she increases spending by 2% every year, it will fall a long way short.

The chair of the Arts Council, Dr. Kevin Rafter, has welcomed the increase, particularly given the difficult budget we had in the context of Brexit. That should be acknowledged. The budget for the Arts Council increased by €5 million to €80 million, or 6.7%, in the budget and has increased by 23% since 2017.

On Culture Ireland, we are still finalising figures for the Revised Estimates but I am confident funding for Culture Ireland will remain the same as it has been.

On the trajectory for doubling funding to the arts sector, we are fully committed to doing this. Funding for the arts stood at €303 million in 2018, so doubling that figure by 2025 would mean increasing arts funding to €606 million. We increased funding to €339 million and it will be €354 million next year. We are, therefore, consistently increasing funding. There are still a few years to go to acknowledge and implement the commitment.

Workers in the arts in this country are trying to survive on scandalously low incomes. Does the Minister accept that is a stain on the record of her Department? Last year, 75% of arts workers had an income of less than €30,000, 64% or nearly two thirds had an income of less than €20,000, and 39% or nearly two in five had an income of less than €10,000. Will the Minister comment on that?

The Minister stated that the Government is fully committed to doubling arts spending by 2025. Does she accept that if she continues to increase arts spending at the current rate, she will come nowhere near doubling it by 2025? Does she accept that substantial annual increases are needed to come anywhere close to the target?

The answer is in the Deputy's question. As he stated, the commitment is to double funding by 2025. We have not reached 2025. The Government did not give a commitment to front-load funding in the early years.

I am not asking for front-loading.

We are on an upward trajectory and we will fulfil our commitment by 2025. The approach by Solidarity-People Before Profit to arts funding does not make sense because it wants to increase funding for the arts by €100 million in 2020, while also seeking to abolish the universal social charge and local property tax. That does not add up. I am acutely aware of the decades long difficulties faced by those who wish to engage in artistic pursuits. For this reason, I brought in new initiatives this year. For example, I extended the jobseeker's allowance under the social welfare scheme for artists and others who were previously unable to avail of it. This will allow them to continue with their work without being penalised or subject to the normal labour activation measures. I also expanded the bands that apply under the percent for art scheme to give more work to artists. Spending on artists has never been as high. We are, however, conscious of the issues facing artists and we are always trying to find new ways to support them.