I R E L A N D
0. INTRODUCTION *
Ireland's island position as a 'western periphery of Europe' has been a determining factor for Irish society in general and Irish culture in particular. With 3.57 million inhabitants settled in a land area of 68,890 km², the same figure as in 1888/89 for the part of Ireland which is now the Republic, it has the second smallest population among the EC countries.
Ireland experiences an economic boom in the last ten years, and has one of the highest economic growth – currently around 7 per cent, with inflation kept in check at 2.6 per cent, and a highly developed information technology sector. The country has attracted overseas investment over recent decades with an enticing package of tax incentives. Formerly targeted as an EU poverty region situated on the periphery of Europe, the country has benefited from an influx of European Structural Funds for regional development, which have also impacted on arts and culture. Unemployment has remained stubbornly high at around 12 per cent and there are reports of a wideniong gap between levels of income.
The capital Dublin is by far the largest city, with a population (city and county) of around 1.25 million. At local government level there are 27 County Councils, 5 County Borough Corporations, 5 Municipal Boroughs, and 49 Urban District Councils.
The cultural dimension of emigration has resulted in strong cultural links with the United States 1 and Australia. This dimension is seen more clearly in the field of media policy, where no restrictions exist on Ireland's right to purchase TV programmes from these two countries. Similarly, the Irish Government has always opposed the original French plan for a binding 60 per cent quota of made-in-Europe non-news programmes.
One of the main cultural characteristics of the Irish population is a preoccupation with cultural identity and national character at the intellectual and artistic level. This has its roots in a turbulent past, but it also stems from rapid social and economic changes to which the country has been subjected in more recent times. Interest in the language and literature reached its peak in the late 19th century Celtic Revival. The art and politics became united in association of the language with a sense of a national identity. This movement culminated in the foundation of the Gaelic League, a cultural association which had the most profound effect on the political as well as cultural evolution of Irish society.
There are two official languages in the Republic, namely Irish (Gaeilige) and English, English being the mother tongue for the vast majority. Only 2 per cent of the population live in the Gaeltacht, the native Irish speaking areas mainly on the west coast of Ireland. According to the 1986 census, 30 per cent of the population speak Irish and English, or can read but not speak Irish, and 13 per cent of the population consider themselves to be competent speakers of Irish.
At the end of the 1980s there was still no coherent or explicit cultural policy in Ireland. More often the cultural issues tend to be subsumed under the economic and cultural industry framework. Thus, the commercialization of culture, as a dominant trend in Ireland's mass-media industry, means that cultural activities are subject more and more to economic and free market considerations. The consequence is that many state bodies which traditionally fund the arts have had to cope with drastic financial cutbacks, forcing them to seek industrial patronage; others, such as the Film Board (set up in order to support the development of the Irish film industry), have been abolished; museums, art galleries and public libraries have been forced to introduce charges to the public for their services.
Another feature that strongly influences cultural life is bilingualism (Irish and English). Either on the level of the national cultural identity or on the level of commercialization (foreign broadcasting), this fact strongly affect the Irish cultural policy.
Policies on culture, education, communication, science and technology are integrated only in an ad hoc manner. No specific programmes exist for such integration, nor there are any documents dealing with the specific details of cultural planning. But on the other side, cultural policy tends to accept more community initiatives, reflecting the ideal of cultural democracy.
The only specific piece of legislation concerning the arts is the 1951/1973 Arts Act. In terms of the 1973 Arts Act the organization and administrative structure of government support for culture now involves three main areas:
In the late 1970s, the Arts Council and the Regional Development Organizations decided to appoint Regional Arts Officers to promote the decentralization of Irish cultural policy, traditionally concentrated in the capital. These officers are also supported by special Arts Committees, whose members represent the Arts Council local authorities and defend the interests of specific groups of artists and performers.
The administration of cultural affairs is shared between the central and the local government. The main responsibility at the national level rests with the Department (Ministry) of Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht (1993). Its task lies in the development of cultural policy guidelines and the preparation of laws for the cultural area. It comprises four sections: cultural heritage, arts and culture, broadcasting and film, and the Gaeltacht, the preservation of the Irish-Gaelic heritage.
Other ministries involved in cultural matters include the Department of Enterprise and Employment (copyright), Department of Foreign Affairs (Irish art abroad), Department of Education (schools and third level), Department of the Environment (local government, including library institutions), Department of Finance (Office of Public Works) and Department of Tourism and Trade.
An Arts Act was passed in 1951 which established the Arts Council (An Chomhairle Eala¡on). It is an independent statutory organization funded by the government with responsibility for cultural affairs and contemporary arts (visual arts, music, dance, drama, theatre, publications and literature, film, festivals, arts centres, and community arts). The Council also provides artists with awards, scholarships, bursaries, public commissions, etc. It is a policy of the Council to encourage the development of arts centres in every town in Ireland. There are arts centres in Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Cork, Skibbereen, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Castllebar, Sligo and Dundalk.
Like the Arts Council, the National Gallery, established in 1854, receives separate funds from the Government. The relative autonomy of the National Gallery is in stark contrast to that of the National Museum, founded in 1732. The Museum reflects an almost complete lack of public policy. Responsibility for the Museum lies within the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
The Heritage Council has responsibility for heritage matters.
Under the Radio and Television Act (1988) two authorities deal with broadcasting issues: the Department for Communications and the Independent Radio and Television Authority (IRTC), set up under that act.
Local and Municipal Authorities have responsibility for museums, libraries and galleries in their respective areas. Some of these institutions operate directly under these authorities.
Five Regional Development Organizations (RDO) 2 act as liaison between the local authorities and some of the semi-state bodies in their region. The Arts Council and the RDOs jointly fund the costs of Arts Officer posts in their regions.
Local authorities are responsible for museums, libraries and galleries, but they also organize or support cultural and artistic projects in their regions.
In 1991, the Government opened the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in the 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The Irish Film Centre in Dublin was opened in 1992, the National Irish Language Centre in Galway in 1993. The National Sculpture Factory was opened in Cork (1991), and the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin (1992). The Irish Film Board was reconstituted in 1993.
There are a number of festivals, the more important being the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Wexford Opera Festival, Galway Arts Week, Dublin Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, and Rosc painting and sculpture exhibition.
Despite the ‘performing arts boom’, the subsidized arts sector is suffering from a lack of real financial and strategic investment in some areas to ensure this growth continues.
Funds for the promotion of the arts are provided from the state budget, and since 1987, also from the income of the National Lottery, as well as from foundations or sponsors. According to the draft budget for 1995, the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht had IR£ 134.4 million at its disposal to spend on the arts and culture.
One of the most important initiatives in recent years in relation to cultural development in Ireland has been the National Lottery 3, established by the National Lottery Act (1986). In 1991, the National Lottery contribution was IR£ 21 million. These funds are primarily distributed by the Department of the Taoiseach. From 1987 to 1991, 28 per cent (IR£ 68 million) of the net proceeds of the National Lottery was spent on arts, culture and national heritage.
The Arts Council receives funds from the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. More than 50 per cent of the total Arts Council’s amount is state subsidy, about 49.5 per cent is allocated from the National Lottery and about 0.5 per cent or less is contributed by foreign institutions, foundations or other Irish government agencies. Arts Council funding may have increased dramatically since 1993 but, as is often pointed out, from such a small base that funding is still an extremely touchy issue. At only IR£ 20.9 million (US$ 32.3 million) for 1997, the Council is severely restricted in its activities.
The Government distribution places Ireland among the European countries with the lowest per capita spending, but the distribution of funds allows the average European pattern: the cultural heritage accounts for about a third of the cultural budget; theatre and dance for approximately 18 per cent, and library and literature for about 15 per cent.
The Arts Act of 1973 specifically enables local authorities to finance the arts and most make use of these powers. By the end of 1993, 17 out of 27 County Councils have established specialists arts officer posts.
In 1984 and in 1991 the Government introduced tax relief measures to stimulate greater arts patronage by individuals and companies. The Arts Council established an independent Council for Business and the Arts (COTHU) in 1988. Therefore, business sponsorship for the arts, encouraged by the mentioned association, has increased by 40 per cent from 1993-1995 to IR£ 7.4 million.
An innovation for the benefit of artists was inaugurated in 1983 - the Aosdana scheme 4. The scheme is organized by the Arts Council and it is an affiliation of creative artists who have contributed significantly to the arts in Ireland. According to the scheme, artists can compete for an annual tax-free grant for a five-year period. The creative arts represented by Aosdana are literature, visual arts, and music.
The decentralization to the local and regional level has resulted in the introduction by the Department of the Environment of a percentage scheme for art in public places. This is applied to all new capital projects carried out with the Department's funding and 1 per cent of the costs of projects can be allocated to providing an 'artistic feature'.
It was the Finance Act of 1969 which provided an exemption from income-tax and surtax for earnings from 'original and creative work' having 'cultural or artistic merit'. This work may be a book or other writing, a play, a musical composition, a painting or other picture, or a work of sculpture. As a promotional measure for the arts this law is controversial, since a number of wealthy non-Irish artists moved their residence to Ireland in the light of these tax benefits.
Books and newspapers have zero-rated VAT in Ireland since 1982, whereas they were previously taxed at the 18 per cent rate (current standard rate is 25 per cent).
The private sector contributes to cultural affairs, both nationally and locally through patronage/sponsorship, particularly in the creative and performing arts. Maximum corporate relief for donations is IR£ 10,000 p.a. (13,079 ECU).
The country’s national orchestra and other ensembles survive under the aegis of the Irish national public broadcaster, Radio Telefis Éirann (RTÉ).
With little or no local authorithy funding for the arts, a deficit at the National Theatre Society (the Abbey and Peacock theatres) and an almost incredible dependency of the arts sector on the national employment scheme, the positive trends are matched by negative ones. The Arts Council’s requests for funding have leaped dramatically but its own theatre grant has reached a plateau and in 1995 was only IR£ 5.6 million (of which the Abbey took over IR£ 2 million).
The dance sector has suffered most, with dramatic cutbacks in the early 1990 and is only now clawing back to its previous status. Part of the dance funding for 1997 is to do a feasibility study for an Irish dance platform in the future. Now, there is a part-time dance officer at the Arts Council, which has improved the situation for dance.
An increasing artistic collaboration with Northern Ireland (part of the UK) has been supported by Co-operation North, funded by the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.
The Cultural Relations Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives some funding to individual projects, and the Arts Council has an airfare deal called Artflight.
The Finance Act (1969) exempted some artists' incomes from income-tax and surtax.
Copyright is available under the various copyright acts.( The Attorney General's Office may advise) 5.
According to the current Irish media law, there are three specific acts regulating Irish broadcasting:
The Wireless Telegraphy Acts (1926-1972), which specifies, inter alia, that broadcasting is subject to licensing by the Minister for Communications;
The Broadcasting Authority Acts (1960-1979), which regulates the public service broadcaster RTE; the Radio and Television Act (1988), which contains the regulations applicable to private commercial broadcasting;
The nationally recognized cultural monuments are protected by the National Monument Act (1930), revised in 1954 and updated again in 1987.
The other acts include: the acts governing the National Gallery, the National College of Art and Design, the Vocational Education Act (1931), the Local Governments (library) Acts.
The Irish folklore Commission was established in 1935 and it was transferred to the Department of Irish Folklore at University College, Dublin, in the same year. It is now one of the foremost folklore archives in Europe and second largest in the world.
The current responsibility for heritage matters 6 is divided between different Departments of State. The government has appointed a National Heritage Council to formulate policy for Ireland's national heritage. The main emphasis seems to be on the natural environment and archeology rather than on the built environment.
It is estimated that there are 150,000 national monuments, but only 1,300 are in state ownership or guardianship.
Museums, archives and centres of cultural studies are funded largely by the State, which also exercises a monitoring role.
In 1980, the Department of Education published its White Paper, which contained for the first time a separate chapter on the arts. Further progress was made in 1984, when a Curriculum and Examinations Board was established. The board published a consultative document on eight educational categories, including one for 'creative and aesthetic skills'. This document was followed by another discussion paper - The Arts in Education - published in 1985.
Irish language and literature is taught in all primary and secondary schools. In teaching English, particular attention is placed on drama. In third-level education (adult education programmes), importance is given to Celtic Studies.
The training of artists is undertaken in the national College of Art and Design, the arts departments of regional technical colleges, the Crawford School of Art, and the Limerick School of Arts. Cultural development personnel receive training in the form of on-the-job experience. Otherwise, training is provided through a privately funded course at University College, Dublin, for arts administrators and through occasional conferences, such as the conference organized by the Arts Council on the regional level (Galway 1988).
As a result of the growth in arts activity generally, there is an ongoing need for arts administrators and a number of universities, besides the University College Dublin, which offer post-graduate courses in art administration such as University College Galway and University College Cork.
Drama and theatre occupy an important place in Irish cultural life, particularly since the 19th century. Amateur drama is widespread and strong. The Gaelic League drama classes brought theatre to the countryside in the past and today the Association of Irish Musical Societies 'Tops of the Town' festival provides an active alternative to the passive pub and television culture - so popular now.
Although the professional mainstream and what might be termed 'alternative' theatres are located in Dublin and the largest cities, Ireland has also a folk theatre. The National Folk Theatre (Siamsa Tíre) was founded in 1974. Its aim is to promote both Irish and international folk culture through stage presentations based on music, folklore and dance. Since 1974 Siamsa has organized theatre training workshops for some 500 young people, which is a unique theatrical experiment. The training involves three-year courses in music, song, dance and mime.
The sector is roughly divided into producing theatre companies and receiving venues both in Dublin and in the regions. The principal exceptions are the National Theatre Society (the Abbey and studio-sized Peacock Theatre) and The Gate in Dublin, which are both building-based, and the Druid Theatre Company in Galway, which built its reputation in its own pint-sized 200-seat studio theatre but is now also performing in the recently opened 600-seat theatre in the former Town Hall.
With the Abbey and the Gate gobbling a large piece of the funding pie, the maturer and highly-professional end of the independent sector has been hampered from further development.
The Ireland Literature Exchange and Irish Translators’ Association handles the translation of books, and poetry is in charge of The Library Council. There are also the Irish Writers’ Centre and the Irish Writers’ Union.
Irish poets and writers such as Seamus Heaney and Roddy Doyle have been showered with prizes.
A very positive development in recent years has been the use of the local library as a cultural centre. Attention has been paid not just to book-oriented activities but rather to the concept of their extension. The library service is run by the local authorities with a central Library Council established under the Public Library Act (1947) which classifies libraries as cultural centres.
Ireland is a musical nation, but it is in the pop and traditional genres that it has made its international name. Classical music has not been a major part of the country’s tradition and the RTÉ can be credited with ensuring the growth of musical life, both live and broadcast.
The 1960s and 1970s brought an upsurge of interest in traditional music and dancing as part of a developing youth culture. This development brought about a demand for recordings of traditional music, both in Ireland and abroad.
There are numerous organizations involved in the promotion of music such as the Music Network, the Contemporary Music Association, the Irish Traditional Music Archive, the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann, the Cumann Cheol Tíre Eireann, etc.
Music Network is a development agency set up in 1986 by the Arts Council to build a grass-roots network of local music activity. It has successfully focused on the grass-roots generation of local music activity in the classical, traditional and jazz genres.
The weakness still in Ireland is music training, which relies heavily on the facilities of neighbouring Britain for postgraduate studies. And the poverty of music education in schools is a concern for the whole sector.
Current development in the mass media in Ireland can be seen as examples of an attempt to reduce state intervention in the area of broadcasting in order to let commercial/economic interests develop an area of culture which traditionally forms part of the public, rather than the private, sector. In this light, the Radio and Television Act (1988) could be seen as an instance of deregulation: it breaks the broadcasting monopoly held by the public service broadcaster and introduces competition and choices. The wider cultural and social implications of change in broadcasting for Irish society are rarely debated - in fact, decisions are made in line with economic and commercial criteria. The differentia specifica of the country could be stated as follows: Ireland has a strong privately owned press (all the national newspapers are privately owned, family ownership being an established Irish tradition) and a public broadcasting system.
The trend of recent development of Irish cultural industries manifests itself particularly in the field of book publishing. There are about one hundred publishers in Ireland and some have had a considerable increase in sales in recent years. The removal of Valued Added Tax (VAT) from books in spring 1982 was followed immediately by a jump of 30 to 40 per cent in sales.
Prior to 1974 it was estimated that Irish publishing accounted for no more than 5 per cent of the market , but it is now estimated to account for about 30 per cent of the home market, worth about IR£ 40 million a year in retail sales, of which 12 million is spent on school books.
An Irish Book Marketing Group was set up in 1982 and it initiated a weekly Irish bestseller list. This group is in the forefront of book promotion on the Irish market.
Recognizing that works of literary value are very often not commercially viable for the publishers, the Arts Council also has a role to offer a range of assistance to the literary publisher in the English language, while Irish language publication is assisted by the Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge.
Traditionally Ireland has a very high readership and a fairly large number of newspapers for its population: the net sales of all national newspapers combined total around 5 million copies a week.
As with the broadcast media, the general rule is that newspapers and magazines published in Ireland are owned by indigenous companies. The only exemption is the Irish Press Newspaper Publisher.
Ireland's first penny newspaper was the Irish Times in 1859. The Irish Independent was a popular newspaper founded in January 1905.
Six morning daily newspapers are published in Ireland now, four evening and five Sunday newspapers. There are over 80 provincial newspapers in Ireland and many of them are family-oriented enterprises, independent of large publishing groups.
In addition, a large number of British titles are sold in Ireland.
Broadcasting began in Ireland with the establishment of an Irish State Radio Service in 1926. Radio was under direct state control until the passing of the Broadcasting Authority Act (1960), which established state-sponsored (i.e., public service) broadcasting Radio Telefis Éireann (RTÉ) Authority. This Act also gave to the RTE Authority control over the new Irish television service, which began transmitting towards the end of 1961. It is controlled by the nine-member RTÉ Authority, which is appointed by the Government.
The establishment of private commercial radio and television is probably one of the most significant media developments in recent times. In 1989, the licensing of private commercial radio service abolished to a certain extent the state monopoly. Until then, around 70-80 unlicensed private stations operated in Ireland.
At present, two public television and three radio channels are in operation, including bilingual broadcasting (Irish and English). Radio na Gaeltachta was established in 1972 to provide a radio service in Irish to the Gaeltacht - Irish speaking areas. A new television channel (TV3) is being planned.
Television has an average of 98 hours weekly of television broadcasting and about 40 per cent of the total output is home-produced.
As the country is too small to be able to finance a broadcasting service through licence fees alone, it also relies on advertising revenues to fund its public broadcasting service. Traditionally, 40-50 per cent of the RTÉ's income is made up of advertising revenue, but with the privatization of broadcasting the RTÉ will be faced with a reduction of advertising revenues 7. The still unanswered question is whether the present advertising revenues could finance both the existing broadcasters and the planned ones.
Another trend, similar to that in other small states, is the reliance on programmes produced abroad. The RTÉ has tried to reduce the proportion of imported programmes to 50 per cent of programming time, increasing the production of cheap but popular home-produced programmes (mainly of the 'talking-heads' variety).
Of the 983,000 television households (94 per cent of the total number of households), over 30 per cent have cable television and 28 per cent have video cassette recorders. 18 per cent of TV households have videos, and 40 per cent are connected to cable 8.
Film used to face more problems than any other industry because of its relative expenses. The statutory body in relation to film is Bord Scannán na héireann - the Irish Film Board - established by a Film Board Bill in 1980 with a budget of IR£ 500,000 per annum. The Film Board was first the responsibility of the Ministry for Industry and Energy and then the Department of the Taoiseach, so the stress was on film as an industry rather than film as culture.
The Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has ensured a continuing increase in the Arts Council’s budget and has given a massive boost to a previously practically non-existent film industry with generous subsidies and tax incentives. Now the glowing film industry is the envy of other European countries, particularly the United Kingdom.
Film distribution was limited to one group which owns half the cinemas in the country (about 150 screens, some in multiple cinemas) and is also the main distributor. Box office returns tend to be small with an average take of IR£ 150,000/200,000 per film.
The VAT on cinema tickets is only 10 per cent.
Ireland has a rich folk tradition expressed in music, dance and story-telling, as well as in literary and verbal forms. The weak visual tradition may thus be attribute to Ireland's weak urban tradition. The highest participation of population is in the field of traditional music and in film attendance. Other cultural fields, such as opera, classical music, and dance, have very low levels of participation 9.
A third of the population live in the Greater Dublin region, which houses the main cultural institutions 10. There is a marked urban-rural contrast. Thus, local arts centre development falls in the category of explicit cultural development projects. Particular attention is paid to community participation in decision-making (cultural democracy) and community arts. Community arts represent a special artistic activity rather than any special product 11. In 1983 the Creative Activity for Everyone (CAFE) was established.
A major concern of the Arts Council and of arts practitioners is the wider acceptance of arts activities in communities, especially communities with no history of arts participation. Programmes have been introduced by the Council to allow communities to engage full time professional visual artists, writers or musicians, from six months to one year, to help communities make their own art. A special pilot programme is being undertaken to commission special films for television broadcasting on aspects of the arts, including programmes on writers, architecture, urban development. These films are being financed jointly with television companies.
Some intervention policies have been undertaken by the Arts Council, like Writers in the School, Paint on the Wall (a mural scheme), Print in the School Scheme, etc.
Amateur and community activity of non-professionals is supported by local authorities and the Arts Council.
Dublin was the European Cultural Capital (European City of Culture) in 1991.
No financial provision has been made for the development of cultural relations between Ireland and other countries until 1974, when a grant of IR£ 10,000 was voted for the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations at the Department of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs). There are about 40 missions of the Irish Foreign Service abroad and a grant of IR£ 200,000 is devoted to 'cultural relations'.
Ireland benefits from cultural agreements with some ten countries, the earliest established with Norway in 1964. Links with Finland are particularly strong in the field of folk culture.
At the non-governmental level, the Irish Committee of the European Cultural Foundation was established in 1984.
Ireland is a member of UNESCO, EC, and the Council of Europe.
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10. FOOTNOTES* This monograph is based on a selection of data from the Cultural Policies Data Bank and on documents collected by the Documentation Centre for Cultural Development and Cooperation, Culturelink. The original draft, written by Tomislav Car, has been revised by the Irish Arts Council. It has also been revised by Daniela Angelina Jelincic in 1997.
3. The National Lottery has accentuated the central role of the Department of the Taoiseach in arts policy and administration. The negative side is that this could mean a certain politicization of the arts and weakening of the role of the Arts Council. A positive facet of the Lotteries could be an opportunity to involve all departments of the state in cultural development.
5. On the question of lending rights, the Arts Council already operates a payments scheme to artists for works borrowed for exhibitions. The Council wants this scheme extended to cover all public exhibitions.
7. In comparison with the RTÉ, private broadcasters take up to 15 per cent (or no more than 10 minutes per hour) of time for advertising. This is a high advertising content compared to the 9 per cent on commercial radio in Britain and 10 per cent on the RTÉ radio and television.
9. Methods used to promote participation in cultural life include the traditional ones (marketing and general media), special methods used to promote the participation of young people in cultural life (including outreach programmes, special pricing policies, special arts education organizers), and some new methods, including the appointment of full time arts officers by local governments, the building of new access points for the arts (arts centres, theatres, libraries, art galleries).
11. A process which seeks to involve the local population as a whole rather than catering for the passive interest of a minority (often established at some 5 per cent of the total population) which regularly attends performances of serious music, opera, ballet and drama, or visits arts exhibitions).