Thursday, 23 October 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
8. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands the changes, if any, in allocation of responsibilities she has made following the deletion of culture from the title of her Department; where the European dimension of her Department's work will be located; and the cost of the introduction of the title change to date in 1997 and in a full year. [17403/97]
Miss de Valera: Deletion of the word “culture” from the new name of my Department does not represent a downgrading by this Government of the role and importance of culture in the life of the nation. The statement of strategy for the former Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht — as published last May and endorsed by my predecessor — did not identify any specific roles and functions of that Department in relation to “culture”.
The Department's main areas of responsibility can be brought together under the combining concepts of culture and heritage, in the broadest sense, as signified by the unifying word oidhreacht, which integrates the Irish language into our definition of culture, in an explicit way, as a major cultural force in our society.
The word oidhreacht means, of course, “heritage” and the new title of my Department places the concept of oidhreacht — which the former Minister accepted in his statement of strategy as embracing “culture”— to the fore.
There are no policy goals set down in the strategy document specifically in relation to “culture”. This undoubtedly reflects the difficulties in defining what “culture” means in isolation. Indeed, there is no uniformity in Europe in the titles of ministries with responsibility for cultural matters. I am quite satisfied the new title for my Department better reflects its role and responsibilities. There has been no change in the location within my Department of the European dimension of its work.
 The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for offshore islands has been transferred to my Department from the Department of the Taoiseach. As I stated in my reply to Question No. 447 of 30 September 1997, the costs to date incurred by my Department due to changing its name and responsibilities amounted to some £7,700, to be met from existing budgets.
In connection with the transfer of responsibilities for Islands, it will be necessary to seek a Supplementary Estimate to allow my Department to expend funds currently provided for under subhead F 2.4 of the Vote of the Department of the Taoiseach.
Mr. M. Higgins: I have been quoted more than once in replies prepared for the Minister and I take the opportunity to explain something. Perhaps the Minister will not agree with me but I would ask her to reflect on it.
First the Irish word “oidhreacht” has a wider meaning than the word “heritage” in English, but at no stage did I say, while heritage is part of tradition, that one could drop the word culture for the obvious reason that one would be dropping the contemporary and the urban. The Minister will not find a line to justify that in the Department.
Second, does the Minister think it is interesting that the change in the title of the Department was following what was expected to be the English model but that her colleague in Britain, Chris Smith, MP, calls himself the Secretary of State for Culture?
Third I asked where the European dimension of the Department's work will be located. The Council, to which I wish her well when she goes, to which I went was the Council for Audiovisual and Cultural Affairs Ministers. The word “culture” in the title of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht acted as a combining term which included the contemporary, the traditional, broadcasting, etc. I accept that the word “oidhreacht” has wider implications than the term “heritage”. If there had not been a combining term in the Department's title, Teilifís na Gaeilge would not have come into existence because neither the broadcasting authorities nor Roinn na Gaeltachta could have established it on their own. The empowering word during my tenure in the Department was “culture”. I tabled this question because, on the announcement of the change in the Department's title, the Taoiseach stated that the Government would have different priorities, the nature of which I was eager to learn.
Miss de Valera: I quoted the Deputy's remarks because of the direct reference to the roles and functions of the Department set out in the statement of strategy he introduced as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. It is important to note that under the previous Administration the Department had no specific roles and functions in respect of culture.
 It is clear that broadcasting comes under the auspices of my Department and is one of its major responsibilities. Therefore, Teilifís na Gaeltachta, Raidió na Gaeltachta and the other elements of broadcasting are to the fore in my Department. The Deputy is correct to state that this Government places a different emphasis on the Department's priorities. It will be no surprise to him that the priorities of successive Governments regarding individual Departments differ. We were interested in promoting the word “heritage” because, as the Deputy stated on many occasions, it is a wider-ranging and more inclusive term than the term “culture”.
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