7. Financing and support
Last update: November, 2020
The majority of public cultural expenditure in Ireland comes from the national government and local governments. Local government expenditure has increased in proportion to national government expenditure, but this is more likely related to the stagnation of national level expenditure. Central government expenditure on culture peaked in 2007/2008, but — similar to other areas of public expenditure — declined during each year of the economic recession up until 2013. For example, Arts Council funding allocation peaked in 2008 at EUR 83 million, fell to EUR 56.7 million in 2013 and rose again very marginally every year to EUR 68 million in 2018. Total public culture expenditure per capita is difficult to quantify given the availability of data: Not since 1997 has such data been compiled or made publicly available. Government funding allocation for culture improved slightly in the 2020 budget allocation and was then supplemented mid year to reflect changed circumstances for the sector under COVID-19 restrictions. The government’s 2021 budget allocation reflected how COVID-19 had adversely impacted the sector and increased substantially. The total culture allocation for 2021 has increased by 70% compared to the previous year.
According to Eurostat, 1% of general government expenditure was spent on cultural services in the EU-28 in 2019. In Ireland, the figure is much lower at a mere 0.8% of GDP. Ireland does however fare better in comparison with other EU-28 countries when we look at general government expenditure devoted to broadcasting and publishing services at 0.8% compared to 0.4% in the EU-28. Irish Government expenditure on broadcasting and publishing services increased marginally from 0.7 to 0.8% (2013-2018).
In the period 2009-2013, the evolution of per capita public expenditure on culture has been negative, as a result of the economic crisis, which has affected cultural budgets on all levels of government. Overall, the expenditure decreased in nominal terms by 30%.
Last update: November, 2020
According to the ministerial 2019 budget speech (November 2018), the departmental expenditure for the arts and culture sector in 2019 increased by EUR 22.6 million to almost EUR 190 million, which is an increase of 14% on 2018. This funding related to EUR 148.2 million in current expenditure and EUR 41.7 million in capital investment.
Local authorities are the second largest funding source for the arts in Ireland. In 2018, their net investment was almost EUR 40.1million. Local authority’s arts expenditure now represents a significant proportion of the total figure of expenditure on culture in Ireland. Data collated annually by the Arts Council states that between 2005–2014 Arts Council funding of the arts totalled EUR 623 million, while local authority expenditure figures on the arts totalled EUR 386 million. However, local authority arts funding was severely cut during the recession and is only recently recovering. An embargo on recruitment of new staff was put in place across the entire civil service in Ireland in response to the recession in 2008. While this embargo is beginning to lift in places, it still impacts greatly on the service provision at local authority level. Programming budgets were cut from the level of both the national Arts Council and the local authorities.This had an enormous impact on the sustainability of the professional arts level in Ireland and on the opportunity for people to participate in and engage with the arts.
Table 5. Public cultural expenditure by level of government
|Level of government||Total expenditure in EUR|
|2018||% share of total||2019||% share of total|
|State (central, federal)||166.4m||80.60%||189m*||81%|
|Regional (provincial, etc.)||0||0||0||0|
|Local (municipal, incl. counties)||40.1m**||19.40%||44.5m***||19%|
*Exchequer Funding, Further Revised Estimate
**Arts Council Annual Report, 2018
***Arts Council Annual Report, 2019
 Arts Council, Three Year Plan Making Great Art Work, 2020 - 2022.
No reliable comparative breakdown available.
Last update: November, 2020
The main approach of the Irish Government to support artists and creative workers has been a system of grants to directly support the practice of artists. These grants are administered at arm’s length by semi state agencies such as the Arts Council, Screen Ireland and Culture Ireland. The national strategy is also supported at local authority arts offices level with a supplementary system of arts grants guided by both national and local arts strategies. Given the continued precarity of artists and creative workers despite the intentions of the existing support system, there has been a recent additional support scheme introduced within the social welfare system that has been specifically designed for artists. Introduced in 2019, this scheme allows artists to avail of social welfare payments without the requirement to seek employment outside of the arts.
The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media’s Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022) provides the overarching framework for semi state agencies and local authorities to support artist and creative workers in Ireland. The programme aims to facilitate an ecosystem of creativity enabled by collaboration between central and local government, culture and industry, and artists and policy makers. The programme leans support towards artists engaged in work that enables community and youth participation in culture. The audiovisual sector is the only area defined within the programme with a focus on developing artistic excellence.
The Arts Council is the main support agency for artists in Ireland providing a system of grants to support artists practice. The Council’s strategy for the period 2016-2025 (Making Great Art Work: Leading the Development of the Arts in Ireland) affirms the Council’s commitment to the value of artistic excellence. The strategy prioritises the artist to make excellent work that is enjoyed and valued through public engagement of high quality arts experiences. Artists can avail of individual grants or project grants through open call submission process.
Screen Ireland supports creative workers in film, animation and television through a system of grants. Individual writers, directors or producers can avail of grants or investments to support their creative work. Screen Ireland’s programme of grants is guided by its current strategic plan 2016-2020 entitled Building on Success (2015). Pillar one of the strategic plan supports amongst other things greater gender equality for film, television and animation creative workers. The second pillar supports creative screen production, the development of talent and skills and inward production and investment.
Culture Ireland supports Irish artists to work internationally through its strategy 2017-2020. Key priorities of the strategy include: supporting Irish artists and arts organisations in all their diversity for the presentation of their work internationally; developing diverse international markets for Irish arts; encouraging Irish artists to collaborate with global partners and support the presentation of collaborative work.
At a local authority level, a system of small grants to support artists living or working locally is guided by Local Authority Cultural and Creativity Strategies (2018-2022) in 31 local authorities in Ireland. These locally tailored strategies were developed to support the creative life of the local communities. The strategies are broadly in line with the national Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022). They focus on expanding collaborations between people, artists and arts and cultural organisations within communities, demonstrating the evolving nature of the Creative Ireland Programme and its priorities.
Last update: November, 2020
In 2018, the Arts Council gave EUR 11.7 million to individual artists. Within the category of artists funding, just over EUR 2.5 million goes towards Aosdána – Cnuas awards (more information below). Other grants to individual artists total EUR 9.2 million. The grant aid to individual artists was just under 20% of the total funding allocation of the Arts Council of EUR 62.3 million in 2018. The remaining 80% of funding is given to arts organisations that in turn commission and award grants to artists.
2018 saw the introduction of a new award for individual artists named the Markievicz Award in honour of Countess Markievicz, herself an artist and the first woman to be elected to parliament. It is the single largest fund for individual artists in the history of the state at EUR 20,000. The fund can be awarded to an individual artist working in any art form or practice. It gives artists to time and space to develop new work that reflects on the role of women in the period covered by the decade of centenaries 2012-23, and beyond. The award is administered by the Arts Council on behalf of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and is open via a public call to artists working in all arts genres supported by the Arts Council. Five artists received the award in 2018.
Aosdána was established in 1981 by the Arts Council as an honorary association of peer-nominated outstanding creative artists in Ireland. At the time, there were no other funds available to individual artists. The aim of Aosdána is to encourage and assist members to devote their energy fully to art. The membership includes creative artists working in a wide range of disciplines including architecture, choreography, music, literature and visual art. The 250 Aosdána members are eligible to apply for a Cnuas from the Arts Council, which is a multi-annual bursary granted for five years (EUR 17 180 in 2019). One hundred and fifty artists currently benefit from the Cnuas. Aosdána also runs a contributory pension scheme. There has been significant criticism of Aosdána in recent times on the grounds that it is elitist, too large and lacking in accountability. It costs EUR 2.9 million to run Aosdána annually.
Last update: November, 2020
The Arts Council manage a small number of trust funds, scholarships and awards. These include the President Douglas Hyde award; W.J.B.Macaulay award; Denis Devlin award; Ciste Cholmcille; Marten Toonder award; Doris Keogh award; Michael Byrne award; Mary Farl Powers award; Margaret Arnold scholarship; Joan Denise Moriarty scholarship; John Broderick trust. They total just under EUR 1 million annually.
A number of artist residencies internationally are supported through fellowships such as Location One, New York; Banff Centre for Arts, Alberta. Local authority arts offices offer residency awards for artists to spend time at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a residential workspace for artists located in rural county Monaghan.
Last update: November, 2020
A number of professional artists’ associations and interest groups currently operate with restricted membership in Ireland. Unlike other countries, there is no overarching union or professional association to lobby on behalf of the cultural sector as a whole. Such a combined lobby group would present a more cohesive strategy to lobby for the sector.
The various professional artists associations operate separately of each other, but have the same aim: to represent the common interests of their members primarily to the state, but also to other professional associations or the general public. Collectively they represent creative artists, arts workers and assist their members in professional practice development.
- Visual Artist Ireland (VAI) is the representative body for professional visual artists in Ireland. VAI research has identified isolation, a need for support and a need for information as the three primary areas of concern for visual artists. VAI is supported by a grant from the Arts Council along with membership fees.
- Theatre Forum works alongside members and partners to strengthen Ireland’s performing arts community, and to advance its interests to ensure a sustainable future. Theatre Forum is funded by a grant from the Arts Council as well as members fees. They lobby on behalf of the performing arts, to represent the disparate views of members including theatre, dance and opera production companies as well as venues, festivals and individual artists.
- Dance Ireland is a representative body for dance in Ireland including both professional and amateur dance. They offer professional artist development alongside lobbying for the development of dance as an art form. Dance Ireland is funded by the Arts Council.
- Poetry Ireland is supported by the Arts Council to achieve excellence in the reading, writing and performance of poetry throughout the island of Ireland.
- Comhaltas is a democratically governed global cultural movement made up of tens of thousands of volunteer members concerned with the promotion and preservation of the music, dance and language of Ireland. Comhaltas is funded through a combination of members as well as grant aid from the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht and Culture Ireland.
- Screen Producers Ireland lobbies on behalf of its members for the growth and sustainability of a working environment conducive to a strong independent production sector and IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) lobbies on behalf of film producers. Screen Guilds of Ireland aims to promote excellence in all fields of film and television production in Ireland, through the representation of its members. Screen Directors Guild of Ireland represents directors in the Irish and international industry.
- The Irish Association of Youth Orchestras represents over 5000 young musicians through 108 youth orchestras in Ireland. Membership is open to all youth orchestras in Ireland (secondary school, school of music, college or university, or independent or community-based orchestras).
- Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network started as a voluntary organisation in 2010. Together with this emerging artform, it has grown and now the organisation supports and advocates for their 100 member organisations and individuals across Ireland and beyond.
- The Irish Writers Union represents the interests of Irish writers, whether they were born in Ireland or elsewhere. They successfully campaigned for Public Lending Rights (small payment made to author every time their book is borrowed from a library).
SIPTU (Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union) affiliated unions
SIPTU directly represents a number of workers who earn their living from the arts including professional musicians, writers, actors and other performers, as well as film, broadcasting and theatre staff. The Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) and Irish Equity are affiliated to SIPTU. Established in 2003, the Musicians Union of Ireland represents musicians from every genre along with music teachers, singers and other music professionals. Irish Equity, established in 1949, is the only Trade Union representing actors, theatre directors, stage managers, dancers, stage and set designers in Ireland.
A recent Oireachtas Committee in 2018 heard from representatives of unions representing workers in the film and television industry (Irish Film Association and GMB). They relayed the discontent of their members in relation to working conditions and protections. Freelance contractors in the sector are not covered by employment legislation. Workers such as drivers worked over and beyond normal working hours. As a result, a steering group was established in 2018 within Government, which recommended the establishment of a new film industry forum that would be hosted by Screen Ireland. This would allow all stakeholders within the sector to meet and work together to develop mutually agreed solutions for the industry. This forum did not take place with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) deciding to withdraw from the process. Another steering group was established within the Department of Culture’s Audio-visual Action Plan (2018) to monitor risks and report directly to the Minister.
Last update: November, 2020
The total private investment in culture in 2014 was EUR 8,919,000. That same year, sponsorship of the arts was EUR 3.6 million and voluntary income stood at EUR 5.3 million. Theatre, festivals and film receive the largest private investments respectively, closely followed by opera and music. Generally, there is a trend of increased private investment but it is still very low.
Total private investment received by sub domain (2014)
Private Investment Report 2016, Arts Council
The 2016 Arts Council report on private investment in the arts also captured the impact variants of private funding according to location in Ireland. The report clearly points out that private investment is highly centralized around the nation’s capital: 65% of total private investment went to the province of Leinster and 52% to Dublin County. Outside of the capital, there is also a clear bias towards urban investment: around 77% of total private investment in the arts nationally goes towards four counties with larger urban centres.
The Arts Council has encouraged arts organisations to diversify their income and become proportionally less reliant on the Arts Council. In 2020, the Council launched phase two of its three phase programme called RAISE. The programme aims at building capacity to generate significant new private investment by delivering the skills and resources to build robust, sustainable philanthropic and private investments. This initiative has had some success with higher profile organisations.
Business to Arts (BtoA) is a membership-based, charitable organisation that brokers, enables and supports creative partnerships between businesses, individuals and the arts. The business members are teamed up with arts organisations and artists to develop solutions in areas such as sponsorship, commissioning, brand development, training, leadership development, internal and external communications, and events. BtoA also runs a crowdfunding platform called Fund it. This allows individuals and companies around the globe to support creative projects from Ireland. In the financial year 2018/19, over 4,165 pledges from funders has resulted in over EUR 248,387 paid to over 52 creative projects across Ireland. The BtoA Arts Fund project is Ireland’s first arts fund supported by companies, organisations and individuals. The Arts Fund has enabled over EUR 375,669 of investment in arts education projects, bursaries and prizes for artists and commissions of new artworks.
In 2018, over EUR 13 million was spent by corporate sponsors on arts, festivals and music sponsorship according to BtoA. Fundraised income for the not-for-profit sector is increasing exponentially each year. But it is still only 8% of the total income of the not-for-profit sector according to the 2into3 Irish Not-for-Profit Sector: Fundraising Performance Report 2019. Transparency is decreasing within the sector with more organisations submitting abridged accounts. State and earned income represent the largest proportion of income across the not for profit sector. This is no different for the Arts, Culture and Media category: State income averages 56% and earned income is 29%; Fundraising is 12% and sponsorship is 1%.
With the majority of arts and cultural organisations operating low staff numbers, fundraising is often sidelined until a later date. However, staffing levels across the whole not-for-profit sector are also low. The total fundraised income for the Irish not-for-profit sector was EUR 1.1billion in 2017, but per capita giving in Ireland lags behind the UK and US.
There are over 20,000 not-for-profit organisations in Ireland. The category Arts, Culture and Media represent 5% of the total sector but only receive 3% of income of the total not-for-profit sector. The fundraised income for Arts, Culture and Media was down almost 12% in 2018 from the previous year.
When comparing Irish giving to the UK and US, the stand out area for growth is foundations. In the UK the percentage of fundraised income from foundations is the same as the US at 16%. Yet this figure is only 1% in Ireland. Ireland’s treatment of charitable giving is preventing the development of this income stream. The lack of tax benefit available on individual donations is seen as a barrier in Ireland. Also the high minimum donation of EUR 250 in Ireland means many donations do not meet the required threshold for tax benefit.
The not-for-profit sector comes under the regulation of the Charities Regulator, which became operational in 2014. Under the Charities Act (2009) it was intended that a Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) would become mandatory. This hasn’t happened yet, but it is expected under the Act that organisations with a charitable status adhere to the Guidelines for Charitable Organisations on Fundraising from the Public and the Governance Code for the Community and Voluntary Sector.
 2into3 (2016) Irish Arts Sector: Private Investment Report.
 2into3 (2019) The Irish Not-for-Profit Sector: Fundraising Performance Report.