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Dear ,

As I’m sure you are aware, Budget2015 was announced yesterday. The NCFA welcomes the end of the general budget cuts of the past six years, which have seen cumulative cuts of between 40% and 50% to the National Cultural Institutions and the Arts Council since 2008.

Yes, the Government can say with a straight face that arts investment has increased for the first time in six years. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s total allocation has increased from €234million to €274million for 2015. But the devil’s in the detail….

Capital expenditure

Within the total 2015 allocation, the big increase is in Capital Expenditure, whose allocation has almost doubled from €36million to €62million. This includes €11million to the Film Board to boost the film and TV sector, and €9million to redevelop the National Gallery’s historic wings. Yet much of this capital allocation is earmarked for capital projects already announced and underway, including the GPO Interpretive Centre, the refurbishment of Richmond Barracks, a Tenement Museum at 14 Henrietta Street, the redevelopment of the Kevin Barry Room at the NCH, building works at the National Archives and a new visitor centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh, Co. Galway. So not much new investment there.

Arts Council, National Cultural Institutions and Culture Ireland at standstill

The Department’s Current Expenditure allocation has increased from €208million to €212million (2%). However, this €4million increase has been secured to “roll out an integrated plan to commemorate 1916”, which means the Department’s allocation for Arts, Culture and Film has not increased at all. Worse again, €212million is penciled in for 2016 and 2017: which means standstill funding for the next three years; and an effective cut after inflation is taken into account.

€4million for our Republic of Culture

The headline-grabbing €4million for a Commemorations package is undoubtedly good news, but is it sufficient? The Department has stated its commitment to ensuring the Commemorations are inclusive, appropriate and respectful, and has also prioritised the development of a national cultural policy, Culture 2025. As 2016 looms, this budget allocation may not be enough. 

We welcome …

… the increase in the artists’ tax exemption by €10,000 to €50,000 and its extension to non-residence artists. While this will do little to help most artists who earn well below that threshold, it does acknowledge the importance of supporting those who produce our contemporary culture.

We are concerned by….

… the increasing lack of transparency, criteria or expert involvement in arts decision-making, not least in relation to spending decisions made directly by the Department as distinct from through the established bodies under its remit, including the Arts Council.

We are focused on…

… the overwhelming need for the restoration of a viable level of public funding for arts organisations’ core public functions. The relentless cuts of the past six years have led to the closure of arts bodies, robbing audiences, more especially those in rural areas, of one of the essential elements of a humane and fully-functioning society: access to arts. Is this Government happy to normalise the disproportionate cuts inflicted on the arts since 2008? Is this Minister happy to see shorter opening hours, less activity, lower pay and reduced outreach across the arts as 'good enough'?

We have asked to meet the Minister. We await a response. We have offered to share all we know. The offer still stands.

We will continue to progress analysis of the implications of this latest budget for the arts. In the meantime, you may read the Minister’s statement here.


National Campaign for the Arts