The main law governing the allocation of public funds to the arts is the Arts Act (2003). Section 24 of this Act enshrines the arm’s length principle in legislation. Commentators have noted the increasing allocation of arts funding directly by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) without acknowledging a change of functions or responsibilities relative to the Arts Act. Subsequent Ministers have defended all increases in direct spending from the Department. Taking an overview the legislation of 2003 attempted to add clarity around the working relationship between the Arts Council (autonomous agency) and the Department. It would appear that there is at best a lack of clarity or at worst a redirection of funding that is at odds with the existing legislation.
Other cultural legislation governing allocation of funds include the Heritage Act (2018), the Heritage Fund Act (2001), Údarás na Gaeltachta Act (2010) and the Official Language Act (2003, 2018). The Heritage Act (2018) provided for the establishment of the Heritage Council and allows for the funding of Heritage via the semi state council. The purpose of the Heritage Fund provided under the Heritage Fund Act (2001) is to provide resources for use by the principal State collecting cultural institutions in acquiring, for the national collections, items of moveable heritage such as artefacts, manuscripts, books and works of art “that are both rare and of national importance, that are outstanding examples of their type, that are pre-eminent in their class and that otherwise could not be acquired”. The five institutions funded under the Heritage Fund are the National Archives, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The Language Act (2003 ,2018) provides that the statutory framework for the delivery of State services through the Irish language. The state agency supporting the development of the Irish language Údarás na Gaeltachta operates under the Údarás na Gaeltachta Acts (1979-2010).
Public service broadcasting in Ireland is paid for through a combination of government funding, television license fee and advertising revenue. The Broadcasting Funding Act (2003) provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland provide grant funding for television and radio programmes out of an amount of 5% of net receipts for television license fees.
The Irish Film Board Act (1980) assigns the role of developing the film industry to the Film Board (now Screen Ireland), including the allocation of funding through a combination of investments, grants, loans and guarantees of loans.
Other public funding for culture is subject to normal public procurement processes.