- 12 May 16
When Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the new cabinet, there was shock in the arts with the news that music, film, literature, dance and all the rest would now be dealt with under the same umbrella as ‘regional development’ and ‘rural affairs’.
The National Campaign for the Arts has issued a statement denouncing the decision by the Government to lump the Arts together with ‘regional development’ and 'rural affairs' in a new Department.
It has also launched a petition calling for the creation of an Arts, Culture and Heritage department – which has already been signed by over 7,000 people. The petition is supported by a social media campaign with the hashtag #ArtsDeptNow.
The new set-up, announced by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (pictured), has been described as a Frankenstein Department, by a spokesperson. And the organisation insists that the arts inevitably will lose out as a result.
"The National Campaign for the Arts is dismayed at the creation of what can only be described as a ‘Frankenstein Department’ covering Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht,” the statement says. "Given the central role of the Arts in our society and the key role they have played in the 1916 Centenary, we are perplexed and angered by this decision. The National Campaign for the Arts calls on the government to rethink this ill-advised approach and commit to the establishment of a dedicated Arts, Culture and Heritage Department."
The department was originally established in 1993, as the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, when Michael D. Higgins was appointed. The word ‘culture’ was dropped under a Fianna Fáil administration, and Sport and Tourism were swept in under the overall umbrella. All of which has signalled a lack of genuine commitment to what is in truth one of the mist important aspects of what distinguishes Ireland, as a location for Foreign Direct Investment, as well as tourism.
"This is a signal from the Arts community and the wider public that we are tired of being side-lined,” the statement continued. "The National Campaign for the Arts believes that at the very least, the government must reconsider the mismatch being proposed, so that Arts, Culture and Heritage are allied with more closely related sectors.
"The leaders of 1916 were poets and artists. They understood the importance of the Arts in national life. It is an irony that seems completely lost on this government that they have chosen the Centenary of the Rising to push the Arts further into a corner, and ditched the Heritage portfolio altogether. The Arts need a strong voice at the cabinet table. At the moment, all the Arts gets is lip service and hollow praise when an Irish artist succeeds abroad.
"A dedicated Arts, Culture and Heritage Department would offer some hope of adequate funding for a sector that has seen years of cutbacks. Ireland remains at the bottom of the European League for Government Investment in Culture and the Arts. Council of Europe data shows that in 2012 Ireland spent just 0.11% of GDP on the Arts and Culture, compared to a European average of 0.6% of GDP."
Commenting on the push for an Arts, Culture and Heritage Department, Chairperson of the National Campaign for the Arts Jo Mangan said: “This is a year when the arts have once again made Irish people proud, not only at home with the many cultural events exploring our national heritage, but also abroad with our film and music talents once again featuring in the world’s biggest award ceremonies like the Oscars, Grammys and Oliviers. All of the sectors within the new department are important but we believe none of them – and particularly the arts – is served by being shoe-horned together in this way.”
THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE ARTS – IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Established in 2009 as a response to the McCarthy Report, The National Campaign for the Arts is a nationwide, volunteer-led, grass roots movement that makes the case for the Arts in Ireland. It seeks to ensure that the Arts are on local and national government agendas and are recognised as a vital part of contemporary Irish life.
The NCFA’s proposition is to work with the government and the sector to recognise the centrality of the Arts to the future, as well as the history, of our nation, and to achieve an appropriate and functional level of state investment in the Arts and Culture.