Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke at the launch of Ireland 100, a festival celebrating a century of Irish arts and culture at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington on Tuesday night.
The Taoiseach and the US vice president Joe Biden spoke in advance of performances by actor and the festival’s artist-in-residence Fiona Shaw, Sean nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, pianist Barry Douglas and the US National Symphony Orchestra.
In his first cultural engagement since being re-elected Taoiseach and referring to the “new partnership government” formed by his party, Mr Kenny said that he wanted “to put compassion and fairness back at the heart of our policy.”
Continuing he stated:
“We are also anxious to establish our arts and culture, not as an elegant add-on to what marketeers would call our ‘national offering,’”
“Rather we wish them to represent us, as the essence of who we are as a still-young Republic with an ancient people.”
The Taoiseach said he agreed with President John F. Kennedy’s view that he saw little of more importance to the future of civilisation than “full recognition of the artist.”
Mr Kenny’s statements at the event have drawn a critical response from media and the arts community in Ireland following the recent cabinet restructuring of the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht to the Department of Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.
The hashtag #ArtsDeptNow is gaining momentum on Twitter and other social networks. A national petition has been launched and has almost 10,000 signatories. (my.uplift.ie/petitions/restore-the-department-of-arts-culture-and-heritage-as-a-stand-alone-department)
Visual Artists Ireland continues to make representation to the government about the importance of the arts, and in particular the visual arts. Amongst the many things that we are bringing forward is the need for official on-going dialogue with mandated arts representative organisations to ensure that policy and direction is informed in a balanced and open manner. We have yet to hear from Minister Humphries on our most recent communications.