THE Government has insisted a €3m cultural programme to mark Ireland's presidency of the EU represents "excellent" value for the Irish taxpayer.
Culture Connects includes 400 events encompassing music, visual art, literature, dance, theatre and film and will take place throughout Ireland and Europe over the coming months.
They range from the Chieftains playing a presidency gala concert and a Francis Bacon exhibition, both in Brussels, to a showcase of the work of the famed modernist furniture designer Eileen Gray at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and a host of concerts and workshops closer to home.
Unveiling the programme in Dublin alongside European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the "the previous budget (2004) was €4m so it's a reduction of 25pc and also it's the artists that will benefit from this as well as showcasing Ireland and presenting one of our main selling points. The arts and culture, to me, are one of our greatest calling cards.
"Many artists are going through a difficult time at this moment and this will give them an opportunity, not only to showcase themselves both nationally and internationally, but also to be rewarded for it too," he added.
Ms Creighton said financial support for the arts should not be seen as an expense, but as an investment, and the €3m spend represented "excellent value for money."
''It's a huge programme with a lot of work gone into it and I think that we're doing it on a shoe-string to be honest," she added.
A number of annual arts functions, including the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, are running European themed events,