'It is not difficult to increase funding...': Oireachtas Committee Calls on Government to Restore Arts Funding

The singer Soulé performing for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Creative Ireland launch.

'It is not difficult to increase funding...': Oireachtas Committee Calls on Government to Restore Arts Funding

'The Arts Matter' report published today (15 May) is the result of nine committee meetings on the arts and music over the last year.

The Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has today published its report on the arts and music in Ireland.

The report, titled The Arts Matter, is a wide-ranging 105-page document that is the result of nine committee meetings over the past year including contributions from 30 people involved in the the arts and culture sector.

The report leads with 28 main recommendations that will now be submitted to Government. They cover areas such as Government policy, education, the Irish language, young people, society, access, and arts festivals.

Among the main recommendations are that the Government should deliver on the promise made by the Taoiseach in December 2017 (and in his leadership campaign in May of that year) to double arts funding. The report says the Government should release a ‘substantial part of funding promised by the Taoiseach’ so that support for ‘arts funding bodies, representative organisations, and individual artists’ is returned to ‘2008–2009 levels’. The report states:

It is not difficult to increase funding as it only takes a Government decision to do so; a decision to fund its own citizens to make art in its own country. Making art fuels the imagination and it is the imagination that shapes our future. Without the arts where will that future be and our place in it?

In 2008, funding for the Arts Council, which is the main source of support for artists and arts organisations, was €81.6m, but by 2014 it had been cut by 30% to €56.7m. It has since increased to €75m for 2019, 8% below the 2008 figure.

The report also notes that the Council’s staff has been reduced by one third in the same period which means ‘less time available for thinking and imagining how the process can be developed to support artists and arts organisations over the next ten years.’

Last year, the Taoiseach suggested that the ‘doubling of arts funding’ would be mainly achieved through ‘capital expenditure’, i.e. funding for arts building renovations – as opposed to being a restoration of Arts Council funding or support for artists or programming, which is what arts funding is generally considered to be

Research and music education
The new report also recommends that Government should engage in longitudinal research (research that takes place over a long period of time) into arts participation to fully understand the impact of the creative arts on society; and that local authority arts officers should have greater representation across the state’s sixteen education and training boards.

In the area of music education, the report reflects comments made at a meeting last May and states that:

In Ireland… most children are not literate in music at the end of primary school level. As a result there is no momentum throughout secondary-level education, and on reaching third level it is the general experience that a large number of incoming students of music only possess a remedial standard of fundamental music education. If this trend is to be halted and reversed, primary school children must be exposed to the diversity of musical traditions and finish primary school with a basic standard in music literacy.

The report describes music literacy as ‘exposure [to] the diversity of music traditions, training the ear properly, and learning how to sing and improvise, learning how to read music (for classical music in particular) and learning how to play an instrument.’

The difficulty in achieving this, the report continues, is that ‘most primary school teachers …are, by their nature, generalist educators’ and there is ‘perhaps a need to look at engaging specialist music teachers within the primary school curriculum.’

The report covers a range of other areas relating to the arts, music and accessibility to the arts and also includes links to all of the statements submitted to the committee by those in the arts sector. Download the full report below.

The members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee are: Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Chair (Sinn Féin), Seán Canny TD (Independent), Michael Collins TD (Independent), Danny Healy Rae TD (Independent), Martin Heydon TD (Fine Gael), Éamon Ó Cuív TD (Fianna Fáil), Niamh Smyth (Fianna Fáil), Senator Maura Hopkins (Fine Gael), Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell (Independent), Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Labour) and Senator Fintan Warfield (Sinn Féin).

For more on the Joint Committee, visit www.oireachtas.ie.

Published on 15 May 2019

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