Philanthropy and the Arts: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton] People in the sector are concerned about the lack of regulation. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, which I chair, has called for submissions from interested groups, organisations and individuals on how this might be done. The committee intends to do a piece of work on the regulation of charities. We do not want to see bogus charities collecting money, with no accountability or governance.

Philanthropy Ireland, which has a section on arts and culture, says, "arts and culture form part of the fabric of Irish society". It goes on to say how many organisations, as well as individual artists and cultural practitioners, make up the arts and culture sector. Most cultural organisations can be classified as small and medium-sized enterprises and have fewer than ten full-time employees. Philanthropy Ireland maintains that the area is fragmented by nature. It gives an example of an organisation called Business to Arts, which can be consulted independently without cost by people who want to make a philanthropic gift.

A previous speaker said he had a passion for Irish music. If we feel passionate about something, we are inclined to give to it. Philanthropy Ireland maintains that the majority of arts and culture donors invest in their passions. They engage with and invest in cultural organisations that have had an impact on their lives. These cultural organisations are clear about their purpose, mission, vision and values and have been successful in connecting with their audiences and investors. Philanthropy Ireland goes on to talk about the importance of sound governance, accountability and transparency in these organisations.

That is why the regulation of charities is important and is something we should move on quickly, if we can. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is seeking submissions on this area. We are interested in all charities, and not only those that donate to the arts. There are numerous charities in the country.

There is a need to increase awareness of the arts in schools, youth organisations and society. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has a vibrant group in Youghal. I know Deputy McLellan will agree with me in this. I attended an event by the group during the summer and was impressed by the delight, joy and pride in the eyes of the young people as they performed. One could not but be swept up by their enthusiasm and by the pleasure of the audience. Those young people have a gift for life. When our young people become involved in any form of art, we are passing on a gift to them. That is why it is important to encourage the arts, and awareness of the arts, in schools and youth organisations. Art is food for the soul.

Young people can spend much of their time on the Internet and playing computer games. Involvement in the arts gives them a richness and value that is far better than that. Of course, artistic talent is valued and sought in the area of computers and gaming. Creativity is important there too.

I congratulate the Minister on the work he is doing. I hope his initiatives in this area go well. Perhaps, in 12 months time he will report to the House on how his initiatives have worked out.

Deputy Seamus Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk I am glad to have an opportunity to make a short contribution to these statements on philanthropy and the arts. Philanthropy has had a positive effect on arts and culture in Ireland.

George Bernard Shaw said, "I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can". This is what philanthropy is all about. It is an opportunity to help people and organisations and to develop community and charity work.

In recent weeks, Mr. Chuck Feeney was awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Ireland in recognition of his philanthropic nature and his generous donations to Irish institutions. Since 1982, Mr. Feeney's organisation, Atlantic Philanthropies, has donated almost €800 million to Irish universities, funding a wide range of facilities, from college buildings to research projects in science, engineering, medicine, technology, business and law. The 81 year old New Jersey born Irish American is one of the world's greatest philanthropists. Since its foundation in 1982, Atlantic Philanthropies has given grants of about €5 billion.

Last June, a Fianna Fáil motion before the House endorsed the positive contribution a thriving arts and culture sector makes to Irish society. The motion acknowledged the value of our cultural heritage and recognised the impact on the economy and jobs of our wider arts sector, contributing €4.7 billion to the economy and directly and indirectly supporting 79,000 jobs. It noted that between 2005 and 2010 alone, more than €1.1 billion was invested in the sector and highlighted that these funds facilitated a transformation in our national, regional and community arts and cultural infrastructure, performance venues and film and television production capacity.

Philanthropy Ireland describes philanthropy as a particular kind of charitable giving. It is focused on the root causes of problems and on making a sustainable improvement, as distinct from contributing to immediate relief. Philanthropy for arts and culture is underdeveloped in Ireland compared with other sectors and with other countries, especially the United States. While we have a deserved reputation for charitable giving, it tends to be in the area of crises and emergencies. Notwithstanding the recession, charitable donations increased by almost a quarter between 2009 and 2010.

Ireland's contribution to charitable donations is high. According to figures released last year, 89% of Irish adults give to charity, compared with 58% in the UK and 40% in Germany. However, Irish business lags well behind businesses in other states in targeted philanthropy. Just 0.1% of the profits of Ireland's top 500 companies makes it way to the philanthropic territory.

Recently, there have been stronger links between social entrepreneurship and philanthropy. There is a need for these ideas to work together. The aim is to promote social enterprise. I hope the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will develop this model further which will create a demand for jobs in Ireland.

Social entrepreneurs are unreasonable people. They are the mavericks who refuse to accept the status quo. They look at the world, are dissatisfied with what they see, and resolve to change it. They are both dreamers and doers; imagining a brighter future and setting about turning that dream into a reality. They are true entrepreneurs; innovators who are passionate and resourceful, who are prepared to take risks and who apply their energy, drive and ambition to effecting social change in Ireland.

That statement was made by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and it highlights the need to promote and encourage social enterprise as well as promoting philanthropy in Ireland. How can we push social entrepreneurship further? We need further communication with all stakeholders. The position of social entrepreneurship needs to be at the forefront of Government policy. Procurement issues may be analysed to get the best practice and costing for social entrepreneurs in Ireland. There needs to be further support from the Government for social enterprise and there needs to be an alignment of social entrepreneurship moving towards the stewardship of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with an increase in linkages and support and a sense that the social entrepreneurship sector has the potential to grow and prosper.

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