Access to and participation in culture by civil society is seen as an important part of cultural policy in Ireland. When surveyed, the public demonstrated a preference for government expenditure to go towards support for youth arts, arts in schools and local arts above support for professional artistic activity.
A network of arts centres are in place throughout the country. They mostly provide a service for each county in Ireland and are supported by a majority of funding from the local authority arts offices and a minority of funding from the Arts Council. Most centres are designed as multi-artform venues with a theatre space as well as a gallery space and practice spaces/studio spaces. These centres are designed so that every citizen has an arts centre within a 20 mile reach. More recent cultural infrastructure investment has produced buildings to serve a library, heritage and arts function such as Dun Laoghaire Lexicon. Youth participation is actively encouraged through the programmes of local authorities. In addition there are youth specialist arts organisations such as Dublin Youth Theatre.
Volunteering is an important form of civic engagement with the arts and culture. A number of not-for-profit organisations are active in this area. Voluntary Arts Ireland is a charity working across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to promote participation in arts and crafts. They promote equality, diversity, social inclusion and active citizenship through participation in the arts. Local authority arts offices and arts centres are reliant on volunteers to help deliver their programmes. Festivals rely heavily on volunteers. Heritage is reliant on volunteers also, as well as the rich local knowledge held by local amateur historians and genealogists.
Local authority arts offices support a number of amateur societies, mostly through benefit in kind, such as film societies and drama societies. The Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (A.D.C.I) is the federation of amateur drama festivals for the whole of Ireland – North and South. It coordinates 47 amateur drama festivals across the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland. The main objective of the Council is to foster, develop, promote and encourage amateur drama in Ireland.
Outside of arts centres and institutions, there is a high level of civic engagement and participation in traditional Irish culture in pubs, village halls, community centres, and in the streets. Traditional arts in Ireland include Irish music, dance, Sean Nós and Irish language literature. Traditional arts in Ireland have only been recognised in cultural policy and supported financially by Government since 2003. The traditional arts in Ireland owe their culturally rich development to voluntary support from civic society. The deep support within civic society for all uniquely Irish culture from Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to traditional music and dance can be seen as entwined with national pride and nation building. Consequently, there are greater levels of attendance, participation, engagement, volunteering, and philanthropic support from civic society for local festivals and traditional folk culture than there are for the cultural programmes of national cultural institutions.
 Arts Council/Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) (2019) Summary Report: Attendance, Participation & Engagement with the Arts in Ireland 2018.