3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends
The initial government motive to intervene in cultural matters resulted in the establishment of a committee to promote international cultural relations in 1949. This survived until the establishment in 2005 of Culture Ireland, the national agency to promote Irish arts and artists overseas. With a budget of EUR 3.560 million in 2012, its remit includes the allocation of grants for overseas activity to Irish artists or arts organisations, the funding and facilitation of Irish participation at strategic international arts events and the management of emblematic cultural events either in Ireland or abroad. The establishment of Culture Ireland represented a significant stepping up of this area as well as the location of international arts within the arts Department (see also chapter 3.4.2). At present Culture Ireland has a board of Directors but there is an indication that this may change as part of the government review of agencies (see also chapter 4.1)
The Arts Council has taken a lead in encouraging international contacts since the middle of the 1990s, establishing in co-operation with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council Northern Ireland, an International Arts Desk, which also hosts the European Cultural Contact Point Ireland and serves as an information point for the EU Culture 2000 programme. In general the Arts Council offers support for artist mobility, networking, information, circulation and access of artistic works.
While Irish agencies and arts groups have been active in availing of European funding for cultural projects, as well as participating in networks, developing contacts and adding international dimensions to their programmes, commentators have noted that their capacity to participate effectively at this level is now hampered by funding constraints.