Fine Gael Dublin Senator, Catherine Noone, has today (Wednesday) expressed her disappointment at recent comments by Gabriel Byrne relating to the Government’s commitment to the arts. Senator Noone, who has raised the issue in the Seanad, added that figures on arts spending, supplied to her by the Department of Arts, show his criticism simply does not stack up.
“It appears that Gabriel Byrne is quick to criticise but slow to admit when he is wrong. Last year he grabbed headlines by slamming the Gathering. Yet end of year figures show we had our best tourism year since 2008, with record visitors coming here from the US.
“This time around, Gabriel Byrne has taken aim at the Government’s support for the arts. Gabriel displayed his ignorance by admitting that he didn’t even know which minister is responsible for the sector anymore.
“I was genuinely taken aback by his comments questioning our commitment to the arts, when you consider that for every week of 2014, more than €2.3 million will be invested in arts, culture and film, with an additional funding of €17 million allocated for a range of initiatives including Limerick National City of Culture, the Decade of Centenaries 1912 – 1922, and for works on heritage buildings. A specific provision has also been made for the restoration of the National Gallery of Ireland, with the creation of 300 jobs.
“We have also brought forward the new regime for tax relief for the film industry to 2015, which is welcome, as is the measure extending reliefs to non-EU talent. It’s remarkable that Gabriel Byrne could say that Culture Ireland has been disbanded summarily, given that it has a permanent staff of 9, continues to exist and its expert Advisory Committee is Chaired by Professor Micheal O’Súilleabbháin.
“Recently, Culture Ireland ran three funding rounds and spearheaded one of Ireland’s most successful stints at the Venice Biennale. Last year in particular, it also funded almost 500 artists to represent Ireland abroad, including in the US. Irish theatre companies had the most successful year ever at Edinburgh, all with the support of the Culture Ireland Programme, winning two Herald Angels and a fringe first.
“Gabriel Byrne’s comments were not only offensive to those involved in the arts community, they were also extremely misguided and misinformed. I would hope that he checks his facts before he decides to launch his next attack on the arts community.”