I am pleased to commend this Budget to the House.
It has been framed at a uniquely challenging time for our nation, and this government has been prudent in ensuring that we have the necessary resources at our disposal to meet these challenges, whilst preserving the longer-term sustainability of the public finances.
We are continuing to make progress on the commitment to double funding to Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht by 2025, and I am confident we will honour this commitment.
My Department sees an additional funding allocation of €354m in this Budget – an increase of 5% on last year, and a cumulative increase of 17% for our culture, language and heritage over the past 2 years.
The total funding increase for my Department comprises:
€7.2m in capital expenditure (up 10% on last year) and
over €8m in current expenditure (up 3% on last year)
With this funding, my Department will support the delivery of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme; will increase support for artists, culture and commemorations; will deliver an expanded programme of peatlands restoration works – contributing significantly to the Government’s climate action plan, and will increase investment in Gaeltacht areas, our language and our islands.
The funding will also enable my officials to continue delivering the Department’s 10 year €1.2bn Capital Plan, ‘Investing in our Culture, Language & Heritage 2018-2027’, being delivered under Project Ireland 2040.
The arts and culture sector will benefit from funding of almost €193m in 2020, an increase of over 2% from €189m last year. Of this, some €153m will be current expenditure and a further €39.7m in capital investment.
At €80m, funding for the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon is at its highest level for 10 years – an increase of €5m over last year. This includes €1.25m in additional funding to enhance the Council’s work in supporting performing artists, arts festivals, street arts and family events. My Department is also reallocating €3.75m from within its existing Vote to strengthen the breadth and reach of the Arts Council’s role, particularly in relation to the traditional arts, Culture Night and Creative Schools.
The European City of Culture – Galway2020 will receive an additional €1.1m in capital funding this year, following funding of €6m last year (€7.1m in 2020). This supports the Government's commitment to deliver Galway 2020, which is a significant international showcase for our national creativity and spirit.
And Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland will receive additional funding of €1m from this Budget. The Government recently extended the Section 481 Film tax credit to the year 2024, and has also extended the regional uplift of 5% to provide an additional incentive to increase Irish and international production across the regions.
These measures are in line with the Audiovisual Action Plan which sets out the Government’s ambition to make Ireland a global hub for the production of Film, TV Drama and Animation.
The Budget has granted an additional €900k for the Decade of Centenaries 2020 Programme. This will enable the delivery of a significant programme of events - including commemorating Bloody Sunday on 21 November 2020, and the commemorating the execution of Kevin Barry on 1 November 2020 - in an appropriate and meaningful manner consistent with the advice of the Expert Advisory Group.
The Budget provides €1m to start the process of transferring the National Symphony Orchestra to the remit of the National Concert Hall. Funding of €250k is being made available for the amateur theatre sector across Ireland. And there is continued funding for significant ongoing Departmental programmes including the Creative Ireland Programme, Culture Ireland, and the investment in the renovation of our National Cultural Institutions.
Schemes and policies announced earlier this year, such as the Per Cent for Arts Scheme, and the extension of the Social Welfare Scheme for Self Employed Artists in conjunction with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection reflects the Government’s this commitment to Irish arts and artists.
Over the course of the past year I have listened very carefully to the extensive public discussion on biodiversity loss and the threats to nature. The National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin this year, which I hosted, the development of the Seeds for Nature initiative, the wide ranging public debate and consultation on the Heritage Ireland 2030 Plan, as well as the extensive engagement across Government on Climate Action, were instrumental in my securing significant additional resources for this area.
Under this Budget, total funding for our Built and Natural Heritage sector in 2020 will increase by 15.5%, up €8m to €62.5m, from last year’s €54m. This comprises additional capital provision of €6.75m (up 44% on 2019) as well as additional current funding of €1.46m.
We will invest €7m to embark on an accelerated programme of peatlands restoration and conservation works. This programme will result in 1,800 hectares of restored peatland in 2020, generating 100 jobs in the Midlands, and ultimately the storage of 28 million tonnes of carbon.
Restoration and rehabilitation of raised bogs will provide multiple additional ecosystem services such as water and air quality improvements, flood mitigation, enhanced biodiversity, opportunities for tourism development, and contribute to the social and economic well-being of local communities.
We are providing an additional €1m to accelerate key nature conservation and biodiversity programmes under the National Parks and Wildlife Service under which we plan to take on a number of front line conservation specialists.”
In this Budget, my Department is enhancing the Farm Plan programme by doubling the fund available to €1m to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as Special Areas of Conservation in their role as custodians of nature.
We will continue to support the protection of archaeological and built heritage, including capital investment in built heritage investment schemes, and we will continue also to support Ireland's national parks and reserves, including the Tourism Interpretative Masterplan in r which the Government is investing to enhance visitor centre experiences and facilities at the national parks.
We will also continue to maintain, develop and foster North-South co-operation in the culture and heritage sphere with additional funding to Waterways Ireland and continued support to Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency. I am pleased that we have also been able to provide additional funding for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and our off-shore islands.
I understand that my colleague, Chief Whip and Aire Stáit for Gaeilge, the Gaeltacht and the islands, Seán Kyne will address the increases in support for these important areas tomorrow.
Our culture, heritage and language play a hugely positive role in our lives, enhancing our physical and mental well-being and nourishing our national psyche.
As I said at the outset, while this budget has been framed at a uniquely challenging time for our nation, funding for my Department will increase next year by more than 15 million euro or 4.5%.
It shows we have made solid progress over the past three budgets and we are well on our way towards our commitment of doubling the spend on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht by 2025.