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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Conservatoire for Music and the Arts.

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 37. Miss de Valera Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  if he will consider the development of a national conservatoire for music and the arts as a millennium project; and the projects planned to mark the millennium. [17786/96]

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins The question of how best to mark the millennium is a matter for the Government. As I indicated to the meeting of the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs held on 6 June 1996, I was invited by the Taoiseach to make a presentation to the Government on the issue of the commemoration of the millennium. I also [1454] stressed that any suggestions I mentioned at that meeting did not imply the commitment of additional resources to facilitate their implementation. I have recently made this presentation to the Cabinet and it is now a matter for the Government to decide on how best to address the millennium. The question of whether specific projects will be commissioned to mark the commemoration of the millennium can only be addressed following this consideration by the Government.

With regard to the specific question of a national conservatoire for music and the arts, the Deputy will be aware that this matter was raised in the PIANO report which was submitted to me earlier this year, and which dealt extensively with the issue of musical education, an issue strictly speaking outside its formal terms of reference. However, I welcomed its inclusion. The report makes a case for the establishment of an Irish academy for the performing arts based at the premises at Earlsfort Terrace in Dublin which is currently occupied by the National Concert Hall and departments of University College Dublin. The report visualises that such an academy would not only serve classical music, which is what the term “conservatoire” implies, but would serve all of the performing arts. Departments within the academy, suggested in the report include a department of classical music, obviously, and departments of opera, drama, traditional music, popular music and jazz, music technology and recording techniques, dance, film, video and television, and applied arts. The report recommends that the most economical way of setting up such an academy would be to amalgamate the third level sections of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Dublin Institute of Technology College of Music.

Given that the Deputy has already raised this matter on the Adjournment Debate in this House on 26 June last, she will appreciate that the recommendation in the report raises many complex issues, including, especially, the issue of [1455] the use to which the Earlsfort Terrace site is to be put when it is possible to move the departments of University College Dublin, currently housed there, to the Belfield campus. The Deputy is also aware I have already been in correspondence with the Minister for Education regarding the recommendations in the PIANO report that impinge on her responsibilities, including in particular the recommendation in relation to the establishment of an academy for the performing arts. I can assure the Deputy I will be in further consultation with the Minister for Education with a view to coming to a conclusion on the relevant recommendations in the report.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera The Minister referred to the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs a meeting of which he and I attended on 6 June. I put a number of questions to him at that meeting and I would like to deal with the millennium project and the PIANO report. What moneys have been made available by the Government to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to lead a millennium project and what staff have been made available to him to carry out this work? Without knowing the answers to those questions it is difficult to know how we can proceed.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins The Deputy will be aware that when I answered questions on this matter I gave details of a small grant of £10,000 which I found from resources within my Department to consider an interesting proposal called Ireland 2000 which was submitted to our Department. I reported on that on the day I met the committee. At this stage the Government has not decided on resources, staffing and which Department will be responsible for leading the millennium project. Until that Government decision is taken, which may well involve my Department, I cannot give any further information to the Deputy.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I would be interested to hear when the Minister believes the Government will be able to report to [1456] decide on those two issues. I would also be interested to hear when the discussions he is having with the Department of Education on the PIANO report's proposal for the setting up of a national conservatoire will be concluded. Fianna Fáil supports that proposal. It is an excellent idea. I hope the Minister and the Government will be able to put forward this project as one, if not the main, millennium project. I am sure the Minister will agree it is important that any project should be enduring. The establishment of a national conservatoire in Earlsfort Terrace, which would be an appropriate building — perhaps the Minister could suggest another venue — would be the way to proceed as it would help many students.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I stated at the meeting of the committee in June, to which the Deputy referred, that whatever is done should be done in a way that will endure and that would be the best way of commemorating the millennium. It is difficult to put a date on when the Government will reach a conclusion on the appropriate projects. I will continue the discussions between my Department and the Minister for Education on advancing the implementation of the recommendations of the PIANO report. I will do that without delay. That is as much as I can say. I have opened talks and I will continue them.

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