THE importance of retaining Arts funding at its current level was stressed by Laois/Offaly Fine Gael TD, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, during an adjournment speech in the Dail last week.
The Deputy was speaking on a motion to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Jimmy Deenihan “to impress upon Minister Deenihan the need to provide proper and adequate funding for the arts to sustain our existing cultural infrastructure. ”
In her speech she highlighted the fact that funding for arts and culture declined from 206m in 2007 to 153.2m in 2010 which she described as “a significant drop.” She also said that it is her belief that participation in the arts by young people is now more important than ever with the current economic downturn.
“I believe we haven’t fully realised the potential that regular participation in art activities by young people has in increasing their self-esteem, their confidence and reducing anti-social behaviour” said Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy, who referred to the high levels of young people dying by suicide in Laois/Offaly. “I strongly believe that the participation of young people in arts projects would help them to cope better with the challenges of modern life,” she added.
Looking more closely at the positive benefits of involvement in the arts, the Fine Gael Deputy said there are many examples in her own constituency of older people in community nursing and day care units who are having “quality arts experiences.” She urged Minister Deenihan to take a look at the Anam Beo project, based in Offaly, which is run on a tiny budget, and has professional artists working with older people and the disabled teaching them to paint and to make films.
She also pointed out that many other community groups and development agencies use the arts as a tool for engaging with disadvantaged groups.
Focussing on Laois/Offaly, Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy said established venues such as Birr Theatre and Arts Centre and the Dunamaise Theatre depend on public funding both from the Arts Council and local authorities to continue to provide for their communities, and she added that she is looking forward to the planned Tullamore Arts Centre being developed “to further strengthen our arts infrastructure.” She also mentioned the Sculpture in the Parklands project and described it as being “a shining example of how local partnerships can produce a magnificent resource in cutaway bogs for locals and tourists alike.”
Quoting from the Arts Council, the Fine Gael Deputy said “if the arts were the Olympics, Ireland would top the medal table” and she added that, because the Irish have “an innate talent in the arts, be it literary, performance or visual, we somehow take that talent for granted.” She pointed to the fact that, according to Failte Ireland, 80% of foreign tourists cite culture and heritage as motiving factors in choosing Ireland as a holiday destination.
Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy said the wider creative industry in Ireland contributes €5.5 billion to the economy and supports 96,000 jobs. “It is clear that funding the arts is an investment, not an indulgence it is good for our society, our international reputation and our economy,” she said.
“We must acknowledge that arts and culture are key to our quality of life, our international reputation, our tourism product and, significantly in the current climate, our economy.Minister, we must endeavour to sustain what we already have” concluded Deputy Corcoran Kennedy.