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Ireland/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Responsibility for the political, legislative and structural context of the arts and culture in Ireland lies with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the latest manifestation of an Arts Ministry, established after the formation of a new government in 2011. (It is worth noting that despite the growing emphasis on cultural tourism, the new government moved tourism away from the Arts department - formerly the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism- to a new Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Aspects of heritage have been restored to the new Department, including responsibility for the Heritage Council). However, the cultural brief of the Irish state in its broadest sense extends through several government departments (see also chapter 3.3). As the lead body, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection and presentation of Ireland's heritage and cultural assets, the Irish language and the Gaeltacht (or Irish-speaking areas). The key functions under its remit include:

  • Arts, Culture, Film and Music, as well as oversight of Ireland's cultural institutions;
  • Ireland's Built and Natural Heritage;
  • The Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands; and
  • North / South Co-operation insofar as it relates to Waterways Ireland, An Foras Teanga and the wider functions of the Department.

Within this framework the Arts Council operates as an autonomous, arms length, development body for the arts.

The Dáil or parliament has a Select Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht and a sub-committee on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Participation of local government in the arts in Ireland is significantly less than in other EU countries. The arts agenda for local government (enabled to fund the arts by the 1973 Arts Act), was largely devised and driven by the Arts Council. The partnership approach adopted by the Arts Council has delivered results in terms of the appointment of arts personnel, the development of arts infrastructure, improved planning and budgetary provision. Recent local government reviews reflect the enhanced importance of the arts in the local government agenda, to the point that cultural matters are now regarded as an indispensable dimension of integrated local development. The Arts Council has adopted a similar approach vis à vis other local authorities, working with some regional health boards to develop an arts and health strategy and with Údarás na Gaeltachta to improve provisions for Irish-speaking areas. The Arts Council supports the arts development programmes of the local authorities and Udarás na Gaeltachtha through Ealaíon na Gaeltachta and co-funds the salaries of arts officers (see also chapter 2.1). The economic crisis and the 2012 changes which have been announced in local government in Ireland have serious effects in terms of arts funding, the maintenance of the new arts infrastructure posing a major problem for many local authorities.

In the 1990s, the EU made a significant contribution to the Irish cultural landscape, funding the establishment of a cultural quarter in Temple Bar under the EU Urban Pilot Project. EU structural funds also assisted in the extensive new developments in national cultural institutions such as the National Museum, National Gallery, National Concert Hall, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Library, Chester Beatty Library and Turlock Park House in Co. Mayo. In general EU funding whether in terms of capital funding, project grants or through training programmes provided important support for arts and cultural projects during the 1990s and constituted a key element in the staffing component of many arts facilities nation-wide.

Chapter published: 10-06-2015

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