Arts sector confident in run-up to budget, but still not taking anything for granted

National Campaign for the Arts chairwoman says Minister is ‘on the same page as us’ with regards to funding

The arts sector is quietly confident in the run-up to the budget, but is not taking anything for granted. Speaking after a meeting with Minister for Culture Catherine Martin on Friday, Angela Dorgan, chairwoman of the National Campaign for the Arts, was confident “she’s on the same page as us”, regarding State support for the arts.

“This is the third really big challenge for the arts sector. It took 10 years to recover from the banking crisis, then Covid, and now the cost of living.”

She said there’s some nervousness in the sector because in the past when budgets were under pressure the arts were always first cut. “We’re hoping we won’t be the scapegoats again. But we’d be confident that won’t happen, because of recent Government actions. Minister Martin has made a very good case for the arts. Ministers McGrath and Donohoe have acknowledged by their supports how important the arts are.”

The Arts Council’s pre-budget submission seeks €150 million in its annual funding, the most significant of State support for the arts. Council funding has increased over the past few years after a decade of decline, going from €80 million at the beginning of 2020 to €130 million for the past two years, with increased subvention over the pandemic. There is a long-standing Government pledge to double spending on culture.


Council chairman Kevin Rafter said starting from a minimum level of €130 million is “locked in” going into 2023. “I see that as honouring pledges that were made before the pandemic on increasing support for the arts. In fairness to all sides in Leinster House over the last three years, Government and Opposition, there is support for that budget level. The three party leaders in the current Coalition, Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, have been hugely supportive of the council on the increase in budget.”

The Arts Council is also seeking an additional €30 million in capital funding for several ambitious plans for workspaces for artists in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Ms Martin this week gave positive indications about arts investment in Budget 2023. Speaking at the opening of Pallas Projects’ 25 large new artist studios in Dublin 8′s Digital Hub, part-funded by €70,000 from the Arts Council, the Minister said capital for artists’ workspaces was “a priority issue, of holding on to our artists and giving them enhanced spaces and creating new spaces. We want to hold on to what talent is there, but also to help emerging talent stay.”

This follows recent high-profile closures of arts venues and studios in Dublin because of redevelopment and soaring rents.

Ms Dorgan said Culture Ireland, which promotes Irish arts globally, also needs increased funding, even to stand still, as costs for bringing Irish art abroad are increasing. The National Campaign for the Arts said it would welcome an increase to €7 million for the sake of maintaining both our global representation and individual careers.

Ms Martin also said she was looking forward to Grafton Architects’ feasibility study on the Flour Mill Artists’ Campus, where the Arts Council and Dublin Port Company have partnered to repurpose buildings at Dublin Port into an 5,000sq m artist campus and workspace.

Among other pre-budget submissions, Children’s Books Ireland has called on the Department of Education to maintain the €20 million investment last year towards rebuilding schools’ library stock, after more than a decade without funding to buy books. It also seeks commitment to a timeline on the recommendation that all schools should have a library, librarian and full access to the school digital library service.

The National Campaign for the Arts and the Minister also discussed other issues, Dorgan said, including action to increase diversity in the arts, and reform the set-up where artists with disabilities were disadvantaged, and “it costs them money to go to work”.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times