Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, TD and Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne TD, reflect on 2018
Reflecting on a year that saw culture and creativity placed at the heart of Government policy, during which exciting new archaeological discoveries were made and the Decade of Centenaries entered a significant phase, Minister Madigan said: “In looking back on a year filled with so many great achievements, successes and memories, I am immediately reminded of a particular personal highlight – the year-long commemoration of the women’s suffrage movement up to the celebration of the historic 1918 general election.
“We can all take great satisfaction that so much has been achieved to advance and promote culture and creativity, both at home and abroad. Domestically this included the continued roll-out of the Creative Ireland Programme – which aims to support and develop creativity throughout our entire society – while abroad, Ireland’s culture was placed at the core of the Global Ireland 2025 Government policy and through ‘GB18’ Culture Ireland supported a special programme to promote Irish art and culture throughout the UK.
“This was a landmark year too for our built and natural heritage – from the discovery of archaeological sites across the World Heritage landscape of Brú na Bóinne, to the launch of a consultation process on Heritage Ireland 2030 which will shape heritage policy to the year 2030 and beyond, and significant investments in the development of our National Parks and Nature Reserves, including the completion of the major restoration project at Killarney House – now a spectacular Room visitor centre.”
Commenting as ‘Bliain na Gaeilge’ draws to a close Minister of State Kyne said: “While the preservation and promotion of the Irish language has always been supported by Government, 2018 was ‘Bliain na Gaeilge’ – a celebration of our language both at home and abroad under the patronage of President Michael D Higgins. ‘Bliain na Gaeilge’ saw a year-long programme of creative, artistic and community activities and events to celebrate the Irish language and to encourage increased participation in the language, which has been a resounding success.
“However, this was just one aspect of our continued support for the Irish language within the Gaeltacht, nationally and abroad – with the publication of 5 Year Implementation Plans in June as part of the 20 year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, progress on Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, support for the Irish colleges sector and funding for educational institutions worldwide teaching Irish.”
Some highlights from 2018:
Arts & Culture
- A number of new initiatives were rolled out under the Creative Ireland Programme– now in its second year – many of which were significant examples of cross-Departmental and inter-agency cooperation and development:
- Cruinniú na nÓg (presented in partnership with the 31 Local Authorities and RTÉ) which took place for the first time in June 2018, was a major success with 500 events across the country, with plans already underway for 15 June 2019. Over half a million views of videos celebrating the day on the Department’s social media channels demonstrated powerfully how well received it was. (Ireland is the only country in the world to have a national day of creativity for children and young people.)
- Together with the Department of Education & Skills, and with support and input from the Department of Children & Youth Affairs, the Department is working closely on a number of pioneering projects such as 150 ‘Creative Schools’ (led by the Arts Council and involving 38,000 school children), 73 schools are collaborating in new Creative Clusters and the national roll out of Music Generation is underway.
- In September, together with the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, new 5-year ‘Culture and Creativity Strategies’ for all 31 local authorities were launched. Innovative projects spanning library networks, heritage, health and wellbeing, technology, the arts and enterprise are happening all over the country.
- In October, 30 new cross-sectoral collaborative initiatives were announced as part of the National Creativity Fund including Le Chéile, the first music ensemble for young disabled musicians in Europe, led by the RIAM and culminating in the founding of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland; the first festival of creativity for children by children at the Ark; the Irish Architecture Foundation's Re-Imagine Programme which connects communities with their local neighbourhoods and environment using creative and collaborative design strategies.
- Culture Ireland supported projects in 50 countries reaching a combined audience of 3 million, including a well-received, GB18 programme – which with an investment of over €1m, saw 118 projects presented to total audiences of half a million throughout the UK. Over 200 venues in the programme were featuring Culture Ireland supported events for the very first time.
- The Department supported Irish participation in the Venice Biennale - curated in 2018 by two Irish architects – a unique opportunity for Ireland to showcase Irish talent to the world and enable Irish architects achieve international exposure and generate opportunities to present their work Internationally.
- National Cultural Institutions:
- July saw the opening of a new Cultural and Heritage Centre at the Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin 2 – a partnership between the Department and Bank of Ireland. The Centre will host a range of important exhibitions – with the first being ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’, an exploration of the life of works of Nobel prize winning poet, Séamus Heaney drawing on the National Library of Ireland’s extensive archive of Heaney manuscripts.
- Among the many great exhibitions at the National Gallery of Ireland this year, from July to October the Gallery focused on the painted and graphic work of Irish artist Roderic O’Conor – demonstrating his highly original contribution to the experimentation that revolutionised art in Europe in the late nineteenth century with many artworks not previously seen in public before.
- The Department ongoing support for the digitisation of cultural institutions, collections and archives continued in 2018, with support for a new website providing online access to Chester Beatty Library’s world-renowned collections – which includes extensive information on exhibitions and public programmes and a new searchable database of high-resolution digital images from the museum’s collection;
- Government agreed to the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra to the National Concert Hall;
- New €200m Audiovisual Action Plan was published in June – which will provide the necessary environment for Ireland to become a global hub for the production of Film, TV drama and animation. Further supports for the wider audiovisual sector were announced during 2018, with the extension of Section 481 to 2024 and the regional uplift of 5% to provide an additional incentive to increase Irish and international production across the regions.
- Following the inclusion of Uilleann Piping on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017 (the first ever element from Ireland listed), Ireland’s nomination of Hurling was approved in November 2018, thereby achieving international recognition of hurling as a key element of Ireland’s living heritage to be safeguarded for future generations.
Commemorations/Decade of Centenaries
- A number of initiatives and programmes were supported to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I, such as the Fallen Leaves installation in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the “visit” of the Hauntings Soldier sculpture to St. Stephens Green. The Department also played the lead role in the hosting of the formal State commemoration of the signing of the Armistice on Sunday 11 November at Glasnevin Cemetery, which was attended by President Higgins and Minister Madigan.
- In October, the Department supported a commemoration of the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster – the worst maritime disaster in the Irish Sea, with at least 564 lives lost.
- The Decade of Centenaries programme also facilitated a year-long commemoration celebrating 100 years since the passage of legislation allowing women to both vote and stand in parliamentary elections for the first time.
Built and Natural Heritage
- In a year that saw some 8 million visits to our National Parks, Nature Reserves and National Monuments, the Department (in partnership with Fáilte Ireland) launched a new Tourism Interpretative Masterplan Plan. This 10-year, €100 million investment will improve the visitor experience through provision of visitor amenities, interpretation facilities, technology and recreational facilities. The first 2 projects under the plan, amounting to an investment of €4m, were announced for Wild Nephin-Ballycroy National Park and Connemara National Park.
- Outside of this new plan, significant investment continued to be made in the development, conservation and presentation of Killarney National Park – through the restoration of the Victorian Servants’ Dining Hall and Laundry Room inMuckross House, as well as completing the restoration of Killarney House, with the opening of a spectacular 18 Room visitor centre.
- Killarney National Park was chosen as the final point on the 2-day visit to Ireland this year by the Prince of Wales, and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
- While a particular highlight of 2018 was the stunning new archaeological discoveries at Brú na Bóinne, the Department continued to work with its colleagues in OPW in the conservation of over 700 national monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister right throughout the State.
- The National Monuments Service also launched a free-to-use digital service to facilitate easy access to the Wreck Inventory of Ireland Database. This database particularly captured the public’s imagination and holds information on over 18,000 known and likely wreck sites both off the Irish coast and in our inland waterways.
- In terms of protecting our architectural heritage, the Department continued its financial support for projects under a range of Built Heritage Funding Schemes:
- More than 430 projects across all local authority areas funded through the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Structures at Risk Fund;
- Six historic towns were awarded €1m in capital funding under the Historic Town Initiative 2018 – Youghal, Co. Cork; Portlaoise, Co. Laois; Kilmallock, Co. Limerick; Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo; Kells, Co. Meath; and Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary.
- While in November the Historic Structures Fund 2019 was launched, which will provide improved supports for the owners of historic buildings and structures.
- During August, Heritage Week was again a great success with 2,190 registered events undertaken by 1,211 event organisers and with 90,056 website users.
- Efforts accelerated in 2018 to revitalise Irelands unique raised bog habitat with restoration measures undertaken on 4 protected bogs by my Department and through the EU LIFE ‘Living Bog’ project. Several community-led projects to promote and conserve our peatlands landscape were supported by the Department in 2018 under the Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme.
- 2018 marked the successful conclusion of the AranLIFE project which promoted nature-friendly farming on the Aran Islands. The project set out to harness local farming knowledge and tie it in with scientific expertise to overcome some of the challenges of island farming and to improve the conservation of habitats on the islands. This project will carry on in a new format with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
- The “OBSERVE” project, a collaboration between this Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (and drawing in leading experts on marine species), saw the publication this year of a number of reports which give us a huge amount of new information on whales, dolphins and seabirds in the seas around Ireland.
Irish Language, Gaeltacht & the Islands
- 2018 was ‘Bliain na Gaeilge’ – a year-long programme of creative, artistic and community activities and events to celebrate and encourage participation in our language at home and abroad under the patronage of President Michael D. Higgin. It has been a hugely successful year, some highlights of which included:
- Funding of €125,000 was provided for over 210 projects across every county, as well as in Germany, France, USA, Canada and Indonesia;
- Funding of €64,000 was provided to schools to support Bliain na Gaeilge events;
- A parade through Dublin City Centre, culminating in a cultural event with a keynote address by President Higgins, was attending by approx. 7,000 people;
- Bliain na Gaeilge was an online and social media success, with #Gaeilge2018 having 90m impressions on Twitter, reaching in excess of 10m individual people, while there were 295,000 interactions monthly on Facebook and 953,000 views of Ceol 2018 videos online.
- In June the Department published the 5-Year Implementation Plan 2018-2022 to accelerate the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, containing 180 measures which will be implemented in partnership with stakeholders.
- Significant progress was also made during the year in the language planning process. Of the 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas (GLPAs), 13 have had their plans approved and 4 areas have appointed Language Planning Officers, while the preparation of plans in each of the other 13 GLPAs, 3 Irish Language Networks and 8 Gaeltacht Service Towns continued to be supported and advanced.
- To further support the language process, additional significant investment was provided in support of early years, the family and the traditional arts, and capital and current funding being provided for 52 projects and to 8 organisations respectively to further advance and underpin the process under the Community and Language Supports Programme.
- In relation to the Irish colleges sector, subventions provided by the Department facilitated over 26,000 students in attending over 50 Gaeltacht Irish summer colleges, with accommodation provided by approx. 700 families in all seven Gaeltacht regions.
- Work is underway, in conjunction with Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, Creative Ireland, TG4 and the Arts Council, on the development of an Integrated Gaeltacht and Irish Language Arts Strategy, while a new role was assigned toEalaín na Gaeltachta Teoranta to expand the teaching of traditional music, song and dance in Gaeltacht areas.
- In the area of transport links for our off-shore island communities, planning for the development of Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin piers has been progressed in line with commitments in the National Development Plan, and 9 island transport contractsrenewed in 2018 – with 25 contracts now in place covering passenger ferry, cargo and air services.
- Legislation enacted in 2018 – the Heritage Act and National Archives (Amendment) Act.
- The Film Board (Amendment) Bill passed all stages in the House of the Oireachtas in December.
- The new Wildlife Bill is still in progress through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
- New legislation proposed – drafting of the National Monuments Bill and the Official Language (Amendment) Bill well advanced.
In looking forward to the coming year Minister Madigan said: “As we look back on the successes of 2018, we also look forward to the many challenges and, more importantly, opportunities that lie ahead. The €15.5m increase in current funding secured in Budget 2019 is tangible evidence of the importance attached to our cultural and creative heritage and clearly demonstrates this Government's commitment to increase spending in the arts and culture sector on a trajectory that will see funding doubled by 2025.
“In April, I launched the Department’s 10-year, €1.2bn Capital Plan, ‘Investing in our Culture, Language & Heritage 2018-2027’, which will enable us to continue to develop our National Cultural Institutions, invest in our wider cultural infrastructure, improve the visitor experience at our National Parks and protect and preserve our built heritage and historic environment. I look forward to building on this success throughout 2019.”
Minister Kyne added: “Increased funding next year including the additional €1.5 million secured in the Revised Estimates, to enable us to cement the success of Bliain na Gaeilge and build on the impetus that has grown around language planning over the course of the last year, together with the capital commitments to new pier infrastructure and transport supports to Oileáin Árann and Toraigh, clearly demonstrates the value that this Government places on our language, both within Gaeltacht areas and nationally, and the communities of our off-shore islands.”
Minister Madigan concluded: “Finally, on behalf of myself and Minister Kyne, I would like offer our sincerest thanks to all staff throughout the Department, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the National Monuments Service, our National Cultural Institutions and State agencies for their continued hard work and dedication. In particular we would like to recognise those who contributed to a range of innovative projects which were submitted for consideration under the ‘Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Awards 2018’ – of which one, the Great Irish Famine Online project (a collaboration with UCC), was recognised in the ‘Research, Analytics and Insight’ category.”