New Arts Bill Welcomed

Traditional Arts Come Centre Stage

The new Arts Bill has now been published by Minister Sile De Valera. This will repeal the Arts Acts of 1951 and 1973.

The publication of the much-awaited Bill, the first in 30 years, follows an extensive consultative process. Several hundred submissions were made in response to an advertisement inviting submissions to the new Arts Review. Over 50% of all submissions related to Irish traditional arts: these came from musicians, administrators, ensembles and organisations.

Following on the submissions, an intensive consultative weekend was held in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire. This was presided over by consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The Bill represents a radical and imaginative restructuring of the Arts Council and in the case of the Irish Traditional Arts this will be enshrined in legislation.

The original Arts legislation made no reference to Irish Traditional Arts. The new Arts Bill corrects this omission.

The Arts Council will be reduced from seventeen to eight members and a Chairman.

A Standing Committee will be established for Irish Traditional Arts. This committee will advise the Arts Council on issues falling within its remit and will make recommendations to the Council on the advance of moneys to any person relating to Irish traditional arts.

The standing Committee shall consist of a chairperson appointed by the Minister and 4 ordinary members, 2 of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and 2 of whom shall be appointed by the Council. Ordinary members may be Council members or members who are not members of the Council.

The plans and strategies of the Council will be required to be compatible with Government policy on the arts.

The bill provides that the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands shall promote the arts, both nationally and internationally and gives recognition to the role of the Minister in formulating overall State policy on the arts.

The new Arts Bill was unanimously welcomed by the several hundred delegates from Ireland and abroad attending the Annual congress of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann at Cultúrlann na hÉireann and many delegates made reference to the fundamental changes which have taken place in the arts environment in Ireland since the first Arts Bill of 1951 - the same year as Comhaltas was founded. The initial legislation referred only to the contempory Arts, ignoring the traditional arts altogether.

There are now thousands of traditional performers in Ireland, many of them achieving high standards of excellence. Over 10,000 performers attended Fleadh Cheoil Na hÉireann in Listowel.

The Price Waterhouse Coopers report covered the following points:

What is meant by Traditional Arts?

Irish Traditional Arts may also be defined with reference to:

What type of structure is appropriate for the development of Traditional Arts?

Irish Traditional Art is:

In addition, Irish Traditional Arts have a national significance in that they contribute to three strategic aims of the State:

In order to develop Irish Traditional Arts to their full potential there is now a need for a broad based policy framework to be developed and substantial resources to be devoted to:

Price Waterhouse Cooper findings also concluded that whatever structure was put in place to cater for the effective and efficient application of new resources that it should be statutory based, have an appropriate budget and be accountable under the normal conditions which apply to Public Services Bodies.

The structures required for the effective and efficient application of these resources could be put in place in either of the following ways: The Art Council, appropriately restructured and resourced; or set up a new developmental body to cater specifically for the needs of Irish Traditional Arts.

Price Waterhouse Cooper also concluded that ‘There is a cultural imperative to preserve the deep heritage and social capital inherent in all the Irish Traditional art forms’.