There has been unprecedented pressure on the public finances and on the Arts Council’s budget over the last six years. We have experienced yet another tough budget in terms of a reduction in our funding and difficult times are set to continue into 2014. Nobody underestimates the challenges ahead. We can mitigate the long-term consequences by making decisions in a strategic manner, but the bottom line is that tough decisions on funding are in the offing.
The Arts Council is a government agency. We are funded to work with artists and arts organisations for the benefit of the arts, and to be the expert body on the arts in Ireland. Our role is to steer development and offer advice on how Ireland's artistic and cultural potential can be realised. The fact is that there is enormous potential to be realised. Another fact is that artists are persevering in making work under extraordinary pressure. And a further fact is that our people really need and are thirsting for the kind of collaborative engagement that only comes from the arts.
So we have less money, but we have no less determination. The Arts Council’s role is arguably much more important in lean times. Every decision matters more. It matters more to artists and arts organisations. It matters more to the public and those audiences who are engaging with the arts in ever greater numbers.
The country is, we hope, slowly emerging from the economic crisis. As we progress, one question we ask ourselves is how can the arts be part of the catharsis of building a better society? Alongside catharsis is a fundamental issue of survival. Keeping the show on the road is not a cliché; it is a real challenge for many.
The Government has announced the Arts Council's grant-in-aid for 2014. While diminished, it remains a significant investment by tax-paying citizens who are themselves hard-pressed. It also represents a continued and strong commitment from the Government. Our job is to invest those reduced resources with greatest impact, allowing artists and arts organisations to respond as inventively and with as much inspiration as possible. This will not be an easy task for us but it is the job of work we are now commencing.