So much of who we are as a people, and what we value as a society, is tied up in how we treat the arts. That is why we have published a detail policy on what we will do to support Irish art, culture and heritage. It is embedded at the end of this post. A nation is defined not only by the individuals and communities that make it up, but by the literature, poetry, music and the shared cultural memory they represent. Itâ€™s so much of what ties us together as a people.
And itâ€™s vital we recognise the enormous efforts of the artists and writers and filmmakers. They make an enormous contribution to our social â€“ and economic â€“ wellbeing. They promote and enhance Irelandâ€™s reputation abroad. Most of all, they help all of us define our collective voice.
The job of those of us in politics is to support their efforts, and put in place policies that allow a vibrant arts culture to come into bloom. Labour has long cherished the vital role of arts at the heart of Irish identity. It was through our initiative that the Stateâ€™s first Department of Arts and Culture was established. It was through the hard work and passion of Michael D Higgins as Minister that State support for the arts was strengthened as never before.
Public endowment of the arts is returned many times over. That is why Labour, if returned to Government, will place a renewed priority on investing in this key sector. On reaffirming the intrinsic value of artistic creation and on promoting the widest possible cultural participation and access to the arts.
That is why we are determined to invest â‚¬150 million more into the arts and culture. This will involve doubling the budget of the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board. It will see the establishment of a new Arts Capital Fund to develop and upgrade artistic spaces and it will give us the means to treasure and grow our arts community.
The Labour Party understands the need to better support individual artists – to improve their day-to-day security and help them produce the next generation of Irish cultural treasures. For too long, our welfare system has failed to recognise the value of artistic work to our national community. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™ll explore ways to reform our social protection system to relieve the activation requirements for those involved in ongoing artistic endeavour, subject to a reasonable cap.
We are proposing a new Global Arts Forum for Ireland – to promote our culture and society, our arts and our values. The opportunities to showcase Irish artistic talent around the world would be enormous.
These proposals have come about after a process of genuine consultation within the Labour Party, and more importantly, between the Labour Party and the arts and creative communities.
We held a series of arts policy network events, not just here in Dublin, but also in Cork and Galway, because as far as the Labour Party is concerned the arts and culture is not something that we can pay lip service to. Itâ€™s much too important for that. In the course of our consultation, we heard it argued that the arts and culture have a crucial role to play in the economic health and recovery of this country.
We heard that a vital and vibrant sector attracts visitors, gets people off their couches and into venues, brings life and business to towns and cities, provides employment in the arts and in other ancillary sectors, makes population centres attractive to employers and so on. All of that is true, and all of that is important â€“very important, but there has to be more to an arts policy than making a business case. Because we also heard that providing space and providing supports for the creative arts to flourish should never just be about a balance sheet or a cost benefit analysis.