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The stalemate that has been thrown up by the recent General Election has challenged politicians of all hues to look afresh at how government-formation and policy making is done in this country.
And the campaign that preceded it also revealed growing frustration on the part of local communities at feeling disconnected and powerless, and being deprived of the opportunity to promote their own social and economic welfare It’s a phenomenon well understood by the Arts and Heritage Councils, both of which are involved in a range of grassroots programmes and initiatives to develop the social and economic potential of our heritage and cultural riches.
In the new political order likely to emerge from the current impasse, it is vital that that the significance of culture, including arts and heritage is acknowledged fully, and reflected in the provisions of the next Programme for Government. We now have an opportunity as politicians look to invent new ways of governing, to take a bold step and to properly fund a sector that says so much about who we are.
In countries where governments properly fund and champion culture they get it back a hundred fold. Both the arts and our heritage stimulate the growth of a creative sector in the economy. They play a valuable part in the vigour of ideas and they help us to question and make sense of the world around us.
The Arts and Heritage Councils have developed an extensive programme of activities that, if reasonably resourced, will empower local communities, which are full of ideas, motivation and drive, to contribute to the social and economic recovery of both rural and urban Ireland.
Resource-demanding events like the 1916 Centenary are worthy of celebration, but they must not be seen as a substitute for the on-going, day-to-day resource and infrastructural requirements of the heritage and cultural sectors.
About €50m is being spent on the 1916 commemorations. What an enlightened decision it would be, and one which would bring benefits to communities in every corner and constituency in Ireland, if the next government decided to retain this €50 million in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht budget in future years, and invested it in the country’s heritage and cultural infrastructure. Our cultural heritage is priceless. We must protect it and invest in it in new and imaginative ways.
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