The National Cultural Institutions Act (1997) provides that certain cultural institutions hold a special status as National Cultural Institutions. These cultural institutions are given financial resources directly via the Cultural Institutions Unit of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Ultimately, this offers a higher level of medium term financial security for such institutions. These institutions are: National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland (including four museums), National Gallery of Ireland, Chester Beatty Library, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Concert Hall, Crawford Art Gallery. Overall, the cultural institution infrastructure is quite centralised with a majority based in the Dublin area.
The second layer of cultural institutions attempt to operate at a national level in terms of artistic ambition, but have less financial security. They are reliant on a number of funding sources and must apply competitively to the Arts Council for funding on an annual basis and are not guaranteed funding. These include a wide range in size and type of institutions for example the Abbey Theatre, Dublin; Druid Theatre, Galway; the Gate Theatre, Dublin; Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, Fire Station Studios, Sculpture Society of Ireland, Cork; Visual & Bernard Shaw, Carlow; Dance Ireland/Dance House, Dublin; The Model Sligo, Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), Dublin. The strategic fund allocated to cultural institutions from the Arts Council can vary a great deal from EUR 10,000 to EUR 7 million dependent upon the scale of the institution and the ambition of funding proposal.
A third institutional layer is supported predominantly by local arts offices, along with some programme funding support from the Arts Council. The main issue faced by such institutions is a tension between meeting the need to stimulate local audience development while also supporting artistic ambition. More often these institutions are reliant on balancing a programme of hosting touring works of national artistic merit along with popular or local productions. These organisations support multiple art forms. Examples would include Rua Red, Tallaght; Draiocht, Blanchardstown; Pavillion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire; Tain centre, Dundalk; Galway Arts Centre; Solstice Arts Centre Navan. Most have been built with the benefit of capital funding under the Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS and ACCESS II) programme between 2000 and 2006. It was envisioned that such centres would break down geographical barriers to participation and encourage cross audience development. While there is strong evidence that participation has increased at the local level, the data is limited in support of the argument that audiences attending one art form became interested in attending another art form as a result of both being in the same building.
A final layer would include private institutions such as performance venues and private galleries. As they are privately funded, they are reliant on commercially viable productions that will allow for sustainability. These organisations include the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin; the 3Arena, Dublin; the Gaeity Theatre, Dublin; Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; Molesworth Gallery, Dublin.