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 1.2.6). 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.
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.