The National Campaign for the Arts is a volunteer-led, grassroots movement that makes the case for the arts in Ireland. We work to ensure that the arts are on local and national government agendas and are recognised as a vital part of contemporary Irish life.
Our work is continuous, and focuses on sectoral engagement, policy analysis and research, and advocacy. Since its establishment 2009, many people have gifted their time in support of the NCFA by joining committees, coordinating actions, running campaigns and advocating for research.
We are made up of a Steering Group, a broader advisory group and working groups. The Steering Group is responsible for long-term strategy and its members focus on specific campaigns or research objectives. Occasionally, supporters may volunteer or be invited to bring their expertise to a working group, undertaking a specific campaign or research task within an agreed time frame.
Click here to register your support to the NCFA
As we are a voluntary organisation, we rely on supporters’ donations and participation in fundraising events and campaigns to cover essential costs. We thank everyone for giving what you can to keep the work going. We accept donations according to the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. Click here to donate to the NCFA.
The current Steering Group is Maria Fleming (chair), Aoibhéann McCann, Annette Nugent, David O'Brien, Peter Power, Carla Rogers, Maeve Stone, Jack Talty and Jody O'Neill.
A Short History
2017Early in 2017, the NCFA undertook an insight survey, encompassing a sample of 1,000 respondents across our membership and the general public. NCFA Community Survey indicated worry across the entire sector about Creative Ireland’s focus on publicity and marketing over long term sustainable policy change and investment.
The insight gleaned through this process indicated strong support for the organisation’s priorities as well as some unique feedback regarding new policy initiatives, such as Creative Ireland. The NCFA’s pre-budget submission reiterated that Ireland spends 0.2% of GDP on cultural services (Eurostat), exactly half the EU-28 average – placing Ireland among the bottom three EU countries for cultural spend. NCFA welcomed the commitment made by An Taoiseach to double investment in the arts over seven years and the commitment, alongside the re-prioritisation of arts and culture in other policy measures, of the creation of a Department of Culture, indicate a much-needed move to place arts and culture at the centre of government thinking.
Following the budget, there was widespread disappointed as the Government rhetoric was not translated into investment. Budget allocations to key organisations were modest. The Taoiseach’s commitment to doubling investment in the sector over 7 years would have required a minimum 10% year on year increase.
Later in the year, the Government responded to our calls for reform of the social welfare system for artists by introducing a new pilot scheme for visual artists and writers. We have called for its early expansion to include performing artists.
In November, the NCFA joined with colleagues in the theatre community in condemning sexual harassment in our workplaces. The NCFA, in advocating for the ongoing improvement of the working lives and conditions of artists, recognised the importance of safe and supportive working environments and as such, encouraged the arts community to put in place adequate policies and supports to ensure that sexual harassment has no place in arts organisations.
2016Our 2016 Republic of Culture mapped out the campaign priorities. This built on our previous strategy document Making the Case for the Arts. The latter was developed having undertaken an analysis of the NCFA's activities at the start of 2012, a review of its achievements since it started in 2009 and the independent research we commissioned on the Arts evidence base in Ireland.
Leading up to the Pre-Budget Submission, we called on the Government to begin a commitment towards matching the EU average GDP spending on the Arts and Culture. That year, public funding for the Arts and Culture represented just 0.11% of GDP and put Ireland at the bottom of the European league table compared to an average of 0.6%.
We worked successfully with political parties across the spectrum to ensure the proposed National Cultural Policy was referred in draft form to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts and Culture for scrutiny and revision, and gave public testimony to the Committee hearings.
2015We began 2015 building on the research findings of the Colloquia Report that argued the need for multi dimensional research to capture this information and for connectivity in research with other disciplines such as health, education and sport.
In meetings with the Ministers, we argued the overwhelming need for the restoration of a viable level of public funding for arts organisations core public functions. It was estimated that the relentless cuts of the past seven years had led to the closure of many arts bodies, robbing audiences, more especially those in rural areas, of one of the essential elements of a humane and fully-functioning society.
Following this, members of the Steering Committee took part in a round table discussion organised by the Royal Irish Academy on the National Cultural Policy being developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht known as Culture 2025. Broad terms of reference were discussed, examples of other countries policies considered and the recognition of arts and culture at the very heart of Irish society were key aspects of the meeting.
That years pre-budget submission called on the Government to match EU average GDP spending on the Arts identifying that public funding for the Arts and Culture represents just 0.11% of GDP and puts Ireland at the bottom of the European league table compared to an average of 0.6%.
Following the budget announcement there was serious disappointment at the level of funding allocated for the arts sector. When the special provision for the 2016 Centenary Programme was excluded, the increased allocation of €4.5 million to the entire department would do little or nothing to repair the significant damage suffered by the arts during the many years of relentless cuts and the standstill funding in 2015.
2014In April 2014, we reported on the outcomes. The report from the NCFA Colloquia captured the sector's response to the assertion that better research is a basic necessity for decent policy-making and that it is vital our policy-makers perform their responsibilities. (This report can be read here.) We demanded government and its funding agencies publicly pledge to plan and support long-term research, a systematic and regular collection of up-to-date information and the opening up of data collected or commissioned by public bodies for use by the sector.
Our pre-Budget 2014 submission was a direct call to the government to stop the cuts to the arts and re-imagine a future where the arts are understood and valued. Featuring the voices of a number of well-known artists, it was a direct call to the government to stop the cuts to the Arts and re-imagine a future where the Arts are understood and valued in a Republic of Culture.
In 2014, in the run up to the local elections and European Parliament elections, we campaigned for a minimum spend on the arts by local authorities to preserve and celebrate the achievements of local arts nationally. This was carried on from our belief that a good evidence base, founded on systematic and appropriate research, is the catalyst that will change our ways of thinking about the Arts and improve how the value of the Arts is communicated. The demand for fair play that underpinned our pre-Budget 2014 and 2015 submissions remained urgent and our call for action was unchanged.
2013In April 2013, we published two papers setting out the argument for our first priority - evidence based research for better policy - and ran four thematic public colloquies to tease out the issues. Pre-Budget campaigns kicked off in September 2012 and 2013.
Through advocacy and lobbying we continued to connect with organisations, groups and individuals with a history of shared interests. The close relationship between the Arts and the State is not limited to the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The impact on the Arts of the policies of the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, and the Department for Public Sector Reform and Expenditure are also the focus of our campaign activities.
2012In 2012, our independent research identified that the Cultural and Arts sectors in Ireland appeared to be lagging behind comparable countries in strategically building a comprehensive evidence base. Nonetheless, what successes there are elsewhere also have shortcomings. This was conspicuously true where long-term research is concerned. There was therefore an opportunity in Ireland to move ahead of international peers, by taking the lead in framing a different approach to the design of long-term research, to reveal the reality of the value of the Arts to Ireland.
In June 2012, the NCFA succeeded in bringing the case for the Arts into the Dáil and Seanad via a private members debate. Over two days, opposition parties, independents and government Ministers debated the issues and supporters mobilised to fill the public galleries of the Oireachtas. In July, recommendations were made by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht and submitted to Cabinet colleagues in the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. These remain undisclosed despite repeated requests by the NCFA and Opposition TDs and Senators for greater transparency.
2011In March 2011, the commissioners of the McCarthy Report, Fianna Fáil, were replaced in government by a Fine Gael and Labour coalition. The new government’s first Budget resurrected recommendations from the McCarthy Report, in particular changes likely to affect the independent governance of the National Cultural Institutions —the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland —and Culture Ireland. In the same year, the Arts Council budget from government was radically reduced and Culture Ireland suffered reductions in its budget, while the Department increased direct funding to its own projects.
2010Following the 2010 budget announcement the Arts Council received 9 million reduction in funding from the Government. More than 300 organisations subsequently had their grant cut, some by up to 65%. A further 30 had their funding cut all together.
Constituency groups from around Ireland were mobilised to influence how the arts are viewed by our politicians, and particularly how well they are funded. An unprecedented effort was made to meet as many local and national politicians face to face to explain why the arts are vital and why public funding is needed. More than 85 TDs were met. Presentations were made to Oireachtas Committees, local councillors, as well as a variety of conferences, seminars and university groups. Members of the public and many of us who work in the arts sent nearly 12,000 emails to their TDs.
This culminated with the NCFA meeting Taoiseach Brian Cowen as part of the Campaign’s National Day of Action, on Friday 17 September 2010. On this day arts workers from all art forms in constituencies throughout the country met with their local TDs to underline the NCFA’s primary message that cutting further funding and jobs in the arts and culture sectors will severely effect the country’s overall drive towards economic recovery and future development.
2009In July 2009, lists of recommendations meant to radically reduce public expenditure were published in a Government commissioned report, known colloquially as the McCarthy Report. Overall, the McCarthy Report focussed on reducing the number of quangos and staff employed in the public sector in Ireland.
The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) began in September 2009. A core Steering Committee of six people initiated the first campaign supported by a network of coordinators based in electoral constituencies nationwide.
The McCarthy Report identified six areas in the Arts sector for attention. These included the discontinuation of the ‘cultural projects’ programme, the Irish Film Board and Culture Ireland, and merging of the State’s visual arts National Cultural Institutions – the Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Ireland and the Crawford Gallery. The report also concluded that a specific Ministerial portfolio for the Arts would become unnecessary, suggesting the reduced functions go to the Department of the Taoiseach.
The NCFA argued directly and publicly against such actions, predicting the long-term cultural consequences and making the economic argument for the Arts by championing the proven achievements and reputation of an independent arts sector and agencies that operate at ‘arms length’ from government.