26 ministers were in attendance for a lively 2 and a half hour debate on the arts on Wednesday. The visitor gallery was full to capacity and it was reassuring to hear many TD’s repeating demands and statistics provided by NCFA and VAI and voiced to them by countless individual artists.
The statistics on the return of investment in culture were referenced by many (for every 50 cent invested there is a return of €2.50 to the economy). Many TD’s commented that art and culture enhances our society and should not be measured only in economic terms and stated the need to recognise the right of all citizens to access art and culture.
There was strong commitment on all sides of the house to the development and agreement of a new national cultural policy with real vision, ambition and concrete targets and looks forward to a robust, democratic process of policy making, involving all parties through the Joint Committee for the Arts as well as the Dáil.
In the course of the debate it was announced a change of title for the department; which was read into the Dáil record by Minister of State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, TD as The Department of Arts, Heritage, Rural, Regional & Gaeltacht Development.
It was also repeatedly stated that Ireland needs to increase public funding for the arts from 0.11% GDP to bring it in line with EU average of 0.6%. There was an amendment to the motion put forward by Richard Boyd Barrett, TD which included an increase in funding for the Arts to 0.6% of GDP, and for 5,000 public arts jobs be created in a ‘new deal’ for artists. The amendment was voted on but not passed (on 23 June, devision of 14 Yes, 94 No. Votes can be viewed here: oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/).
Many of the speakers remarked how unusual it was to have such a large number of people in the public gallery; demonstrating the importance of this campaign.
The full debate on 22 June can be viewed here: www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp
During the course of the debate there were contributions by the following 26 Ministers and TDs:
Niamh Smyth (FF), Minister Heather Humphreys (FG), Minister Finian McGrath (Ind), Peadar Toibín (SF), Gerry Adams (SF), Aengus O’ Snodaigh (SF), Maurice Quinlivan (SF), Carol Nolan (SF), Joan Burton (Lab), Richard Boyd Barrett (AAA PBP), Mick Barry (AAA PBP), Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind), Thomas Pringle (Ind), Catherine Connolly (Ind), Michael Healy-Rae (Ind), Michael Collins (Ind), Danny Healy-Rae (Ind), Catherine Murphy (Soc Dem), Catherine Martin (Green), Micheál Martin (FF), Hildegard Naughton (FG), Tom Neville (FG), Junior Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (FG), Junior Minister Helen McEntee (FG), Kevin O’Keeffe (FF) and Aindrias Moynihan (FF).