Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Caiteachas Ranna (Continued)
 Header Item Arts Council Funding
 Header Item Public Park Access

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 848 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys With regard to the budget figures, I will be happy to speak to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan. TG4 comes under the remit of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I take on board the Deputy's point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Question No. 7 is in the name of Deputy Mulherin who is not present. Question No. 8 is in the name of Deputy Humphreys who is not present.

  Questions Nos. 7 and 8 replied to with Written Answers.

Arts Council Funding

 9. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her views on the current functioning of the Arts Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [31215/14]

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Arts Council has given the country great service over 50 years. It is substantially funded to support artists and arts organisations and it advises the Government on arts policy. Sadly, there has been some recent controversy over a possible conflict of interest within the council. Can the Minister outline her views on the functioning of the council?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Arts Council receives funding from my Department but it is independent. It recently published a strategic review of its work, entitled Inspiring Prospects, which was undertaken by a steering group, with Mr. Terence O’Rourke as the independent chairman. I look forward to reading this report in more detail and assimilating its implications. The review and the process underlying it should allow the Arts Council to reflect on whether it delivers the best service it can to the arts sector and the public. Inspiring Prospects is timely in that it should contribute to the process of developing a new national cultural strategy, which the Government has recently agreed. The report is available on the Arts Council’s website at www.artscouncil.ie/News/Arts-Council-publishes-report-from-Independent-Strategic-Review-Group/.

  Although I have been in this job for only a couple of days, I hope to meet shortly the new chairman of the council, Ms Sheila Pratschke, and the director, Ms Orlaith McBride.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Arts Council is no different from any other body spending substantial amounts of public money. At this point, the public needs reassurance. I suspect it will be forthcoming but a review by the Arts Council of its own procedures is certainly not adequate. External analysis of what has occurred within the council is essential because of the importance of transparency and accountability in public bodies generally. In so far as there has been speculation about a conflict of interest - I believe it is no more than speculation - is the Minister prepared to take steps to ensure objective analysis of the procedures that have been employed by the council to disperse funds?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As I stated, the Arts Council receives its budget from my Department but it is independent. I accept its funds are public money and that we must be very accountable for public money. I understand the council is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and is subject to the same rules and regulations as other bodies. I am to meet the new chairman. The council has carried out a review, Inspiring Prospects, which is important and timely. I take on board what the Deputy saying.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I accept the Minister's response and I realise she is new in her position. It will be very interesting to hear her feedback on her engagement with the Arts Council. It is important where substantial sums of public money are involved that the agencies charged with its dispersal be challenged to ensure their procedures are always transparent and that there is always public accountability.

What is the Minister's position, or instinct, regarding the work of the Arts Council with disadvantaged communities throughout the country? Is she satisfied from her preliminary examination of what the council has been involved in that sufficient work is being done to ensure arts pursuits are not regarded as elitist and that every effort possible is made to bring the arts into all communities in the State, not least disadvantaged communities?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I agree that the arts should encompass all areas of society, including disadvantaged communities. It is important that communities be very much supported in respect of the arts. If the Deputy has any concerns, I can speak to him later about them. I will be happy to pass them on to the representatives of the council when I meet them.

As I stated, the Arts Council is independent. It is subject to the ethics in public office legislation, and the members of the council make annual returns under that legislation. Meetings of the council are governed by declaration-of-interest protocols in accordance with best practice. Staff at the council are also subject to declaration-of-interest codes. I accept that the Deputy is saying a considerable part of my Department's budget goes to the Arts Council. It is most important, therefore, that the money be spent well. I accept that.

Public Park Access

 10. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has sent an application to UNESCO with the intention of including the Phoenix Park on the list of UNESCO sites; her view on whether, since the park is a public one and is used frequently by the public, there should be an open consultation process to prevent possible changes such as the charging of persons for use of the area if it is designated as a UNESCO site; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [28360/14]

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Comhghairdeas leis an Aire agus an Aire Stáit ina bpoist nua. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh leo sna poist sin. Has an application has been sent to UNESCO with the intention of including the Phoenix Park in the list of UNESCO heritage sites? It is a public park and is used extensively by the public. Residents in the area and other members of the public feared that if the park is listed as the UNESCO sites, there could be a charge for using it.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I understand that the Office of Public Works, which is both owner and manager of the Phoenix Park, has no plans to introduce general admission charges to the park, now or in the future.

The nomination process for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List is initiated by state authorities drawing up a tentative list of what they consider to be the most important heritage sites within their national boundaries. Following a public consultation process and consideration by an expert advisory group in 2010, "The Historic City of Dublin” was one of seven potential nominees chosen for inclusion in Ireland’s tentative list.

My Department’s policy, which mirrors that of UNESCO, is that nominations for world heritage status must be driven in the first instance by local authorities and communities. Against that background, my Department hosted a seminar in September 2013 for local authorities and community representatives from the areas of the sites on Ireland’s current tentative list to gauge the level of interest in the potential nominations and to clarify the significant research and other requirements involved in preparing nomination documentation. I understand that, in the meantime, a steering group has been established by the lead authority, Dublin City Council, with the objective of progressing the Historic City of Dublin nomination. In line with both national and UNESCO policy, any advancement of the nomination will feature extensive public consultation over the course of the nomination process and in regard to any specific proposals that might arise from it.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I thank the Minister for that reply, which has many positive aspects. The Phoenix Park is an amazing facility and amenity. It is 350 years old and is larger than Central Park in New York.


Last Updated: 11/10/2016 09:43:09 First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page