Cultural access and participation are prominent in cultural policy and cultural strategy documents of all levels of government in Ireland. Artistic freedom is not explicitly anchored in the Constitution, but freedom of expression is stated as a stand-alone fundamental right within the Constitution. In this sense, it generally protects any kind of artistic creation from state intervention. However, artistic freedom is not one of absolute freedom as there is a stated limitation in Article 40.6.1.i. which provides that the State guarantees liberty for the rights of citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions, “subject to public order and morality”. This provides that organs of public opinion such as the radio and the press must not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State. In effect, this means that prior restraint receives constitutional sanction. A particularly restrictive era of prior restraint which lasted 23 years came to an end in 1994 when the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, with the approval of the Government, decided not to renew the annual “Section 31” order.
In 1992, Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, thus committing the State to cultural investment that would provide children’s right to access and participate in arts and culture. The national cultural institutions in Ireland provide cultural programmes specifically designed for children. Creative Schools — a programme born out of the Arts and Education Charter (2012)— creates an arts-rich environment in over 300 schools. There are other institutions with specific programmes for children as well, such as the Ark Cultural Centre for Children in Dublin and Kid’s Own in Sligo. However, universal access for all children is still an issue. There have been calls for further interventions to address the issue such as the 2019 joint initiative by newspaper The Irish Times and the Children’s Rights Alliance entitled ‘No Child 2020’. The initiative called for a universal investment in children’s participation in cultural activity as one of five actions to eradicate child poverty.
In 1989, Ireland ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the right of everyone to take part in cultural life. From that point onwards, the rights of minorities to participate fully in cultural life have improved from a policy perspective. While these rights are now written into most cultural institutions strategies, and there have been improvements in relation to access, there remain many barriers to participation for numerous communities.
Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities to enjoy their cultural life both individually and in community with the members of their minority. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors the ICCPR, has stated that Article 27 requires the Government to take positive measures to protect the cultural identity of a minority and the right of its members to enjoy and develop their culture. Soft law instruments such as the UN Minorities Declaration and various UNESCO conventions provide for the removal of legal obstacles to cultural development, while at the same time highlighting the need to promote, develop and celebrate the diversity of cultural life of minority groups and the responsibility of Government to take action to ensure the transmission of cultural heritage. Furthermore, under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, there is an obligation upon States Parties to promote and maintain conditions to enable national minorities to maintain, develop and promote their culture.
 The Order had been issued pursuant to section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 as amended by s. 16 of the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act 1976. The Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Section 31) Order, 1993 (S.I. No 1 of 1993) lapsed on January 19, 1994.