Saturday 21 July 2018

'Huge disappointment across arts sector' at lack of funding

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Mark Condren
Arts Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Mark Condren

Rachel Dugan

While he was waiting in the wings to become Taoiseach in May, Leo Varadkar vowed to double Government funding to the arts by 2024, so many in the sector were unimpressed with the relatively modest increases announced in yesterday's Budget.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys unveiled €13m in additional funding for her department, comprising €9m in current expenditure and €4m in capital expenditure, including a €3m boost for the Arts Council - a 5pc increase that brings its annual budget to €68m. However, this is down on last year, when the council received a €5m Budget boost.

Sheila Pratschke, chair of the Arts Council, spoke of a "huge disappointment across the arts sector" after the announcement. She said while the €68m in funding would allow the body to meet existing commitments, it would "severely hamper our efforts to broaden support to artists and organisations nationwide".

While admitting the organisation was now facing into a difficult year, Ms Pratschke said it would trust the Taoiseach and Government to stand over the promise to double funding to the sector by 2024.

She also called for "a commitment from Government that we will have a significant uplift in investment from 2019".

After another bumper year for the Irish film industry, the Irish Film Board (IFB) seemed happier with the €1.5m increase in its funding. While again down on last year's €2m boost, IFB chair Dr Annie Doona welcomed the minister's "consistent support" for developing the potential of the Irish screen industries.

"Last year, production activity reached the highest level on record due to the strong and consistent Government support the sector has received and we remain ambitious for the future growth of these creative industries," Dr Doona said.

Ms Humphrey's department also announced a doubling of funding to local authorities for Creative Ireland initiatives, a €1m boost for the Creative Children initiative, a 14pc increase in funding for Culture Ireland and a further €1.5m allocated for heritage.

The Irish language and the Gaeltacht has been earmarked for an extra €2.5m.

Meanwhile, the National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA), which lobbies for increased State investment in culture, said it was deeply disappointed at what it described as "minimal increases" which fell far below expectations.

NCFA chair Jo Mangan said funding allocations in the Budget were "completely inconsistent with the commitments, and indeed policy focus, outlined by An Taoiseach and through the prism of Creative Ireland".

The body said meeting the Taoiseach's May commitment to doubling investment in the sector over seven years would have required a minimum 10pc year-on-year increase, pointing out a similar pledge on the part of Varadkar's Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau had been backed up by a concrete five-year plan of increases.

Irish Independent

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