Each Euro of funding generated EUR 3.60 in the past three years - The Abbey Theatre economic study shows.
2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model
As articulated in the Arts Act 2003, the overarching policy role for the cultural sector rests with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Cultural Institutions Division of the Department provides the legal and policy framework for Ireland's national cultural institutions and heritage. The policy framework is epitomised by the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 which among other matters, provides powers to government to give a state indemnity to visiting collections and artworks, makes provision for a register of cultural objects, export licences and so on. The autonomy of the Arts Council was preserved in the 2003 Arts Act and despite occasional tensions arising from its changed context since the establishment of a government department for the arts in 1993, the Council has never protested publicly at any diminution of this status. Holding its position as an arms-length body and casting itself as a development agency for the arts, it has from 1995 identified priorities expressed in plans of three to five years duration, which are evaluated and form the basis for government funding of the arts,subject to available resources. The current strategy document Developing the Arts in Ireland: Arts Council Strategic Overview 2011-2013 provides a framework and outlines priorities for the work of the Council. For the goals of this strategy, see chapter 2.3.
Historically the local authority role in cultural development in Ireland had represented only a small part of total national arts funding. This is a result of the highly centralised nature of the Irish state, the limited functions of local government (relative to other European countries) and the low funding base of local authorities. The reorganisation of local government in the past decade has given it a more central role in arts and cultural planning at local level and the situation has advanced considerably in each of Ireland's local authorities, now required by government to devise a plan for the arts.
This new role for local authorities was driven mainly by the Arts Council which has operated on the basis of the joint principles of co-operation and subsidiarity. As more local authorities engage actively in arts planning, their contribution to cultural policy making has become more significant, connecting the cultural dimension with a range of other drivers in the local environment and economy (see also chapter 3.2). A formal Local Authority / Arts Council liaison group was established in 2009 to address key issues and challenges. Local authorities, while by now substantially committed to their arts role, are also severely challenged in meeting and maintaining their commitments in the current crisis.
One effect of Ireland's crisis has been a push to encourage cooperation between arts organisations and various suggestions have been put forward to foster shared services and thus reduce costs. As part of a wider cull of unnecessary quangos and agencies, there are suggestions that may result, in the case of the national cultural institutions, in a rolling back of the 1997 Act which established the autonomy of these bodies. The equation of the national cultural institutions with quangos has already occasioned some protest. It has been proposed by the Minister to bring some of the national cultural institutions back under the central control of the Department and government would seem to have agreed that the independent boards put in place by the 1997 Act will be dissolved. Such intimations are fuelled by the failure to fill key positions such as that of Director of the National Museum. Already Culture Ireland has been effectively absorbed into the Department. In effect the repeal of the 1997 Act represents a recentralisation drive which is regarded by the arts community as retrogressive and likely to engender the stagnation that preceded its introduction.