4.3 Other relevant issues and debates
An assessment of the status quo and the prognosis for access to and participation in the arts was given an airing at the CREATE and Voluntary Arts Ireland Arts and Civil Society Symposium in 2011. The overall state of civil society in Ireland, largely dismantled in the boom years by a process of government cooption, provides a sorry context for the particular contribution of the arts to this agenda. The diminishing arts budget offers little opportunity for doing much more than protecting artists, the institutions and established programmes of the sector, so laboriously built up over the years. Even when it was the beneficiary of more significant funding, the Arts Council could do little more than pilot or demonstration projects in the domain of arts participation, its policies never having the reach to impact on the population at large, despite impressive advocacy on its part, particularly in the crucial domain of education. The arts in Ireland were and still are the domain of the privileged or the lucky. The failure of the Department of Education to respond and the absence of any significant cross departmental progress over such an extended period raise questions about the adequacy of state mechanisms for the support of the arts.