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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D.,at the Creative Ireland Forum, Dublin Castle, 13 December 2017


Commissioner, Ministers, elected representatives, guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Some people see culture as an escape from the problems of the world. I see it as part of the solution.

It helps us understand who we are - and where we came from – and allows us to imagine a better future.

At an event like this it would be natural to begin with a quote from James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, or Seamus Heaney.

Or we could find inspiration from Sally Rooney, Colm Tóibín, Paula Meehan or any of the other talented Irish writers who use their creativity and imagination to explore the human condition today.

As Emma Donoghue has said ‘stories are a different kind of true’. Great works of art hold up a mirror to the world and help us to see ourselves truthfully.

So, that’s why imagination and creativity are so important, and why we’re all here today.

Real discovery and real progress come from the application of imagination and creativity to knowledge and rationality.

As Albert Einstein once said, ‘You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created’.

That, surely, is one of the great truths of all time. Just think about Europe.

The architects of the new Europe – Adenauer, Monnet, Schuman – did not attempt to solve centuries-old antagonisms or the devastation of two world wars, by trying to fix specific grievances through bilateral actions.

Instead, they made a great leap of imagination – in effect saying let’s deal with these existential problems on a completely different level.

The extraordinary diversity of cultural, social and economic opportunity we enjoy today is the direct result of that creativity of mind and spirit.

Europe is itself the outcome of the greatest act of political creativity in all of human history.

Europe has always been about values – peace, friendship, commerce, reconciliation, justice, opportunity, wellbeing.

And these are the values that we are committed to preserving - here in our Republic, on our shared island, between these islands, within our European family, and in our relations with the wider world.

The Creative Ireland Programme underpins those values. Last week I visited a local school for the launch of our ‘Creative Youth’ plan.

In it we recognise that Cultural education enables young people to explore and understand their own and other people’s cultural assumptions.

It allows them to learn from cultural diversity, encourage an understanding of historical perspectives, and value and protect heritage.

We believe that Creative education uses the innate creative skills of children and young people as powerful instruments of learning, inclusion and opportunity.

It follows that putting Culture and Creativity at the heart of education is essential for the wellbeing of our people, and for enhancing life opportunities for everyone. And it’s also important for good citizenship, strong communities, and a cohesive society that reflects our own values, as well as our shared European vision.

So that all leads to what we are doing today.

Back in June, two days before I became Taoiseach, when I was still Minister for Social Protection, I announced a simple pilot initiative: the extension of jobseekers allowance to certain categories of artist.

In overall budgetary terms it was a minor initiative. For the artists who gain from it, the financial benefits are modest.

The true significance of the initiative is that the State is recognising what artists do – as creators of cultural value for all of us.

In the same way, the Creative Ireland Programme is about all of us – and what we do every day.

Everyone has creative capacities that should be encouraged, supported and nurtured throughout their lives.

Viewed in this way it becomes clear that the Creative Ireland Programme is about our humanity and our wellbeing.

It’s saying that we are all at our most human, at our very best, when we are being creative – and in particular when we are being creative together.

I firmly believe that a measure of any government is the extent to which it successfully deals with the present and plans for a better future.

The Creative Ireland Programme creates a space for us to think deeply and imaginatively about the future, about how we can realise our full potential as individuals and as a society.

So, Creative Ireland is a new model of change.
It’s putting the creative potential of the individual at the centre of what we do.

It’s a declaration of trust in ourselves - to be better people and better citizens.

So, if that’s our starting point then what we actually do looks rather different:

It’s all very well to have aspirations and dreams. We also need resources and investment. I have already given a commitment that, over a seven-year period, our expenditure on culture, arts and sport will double. That is a commitment I want to repeat here today.

We have to look beyond this however.
· There can be no question that our cultural infrastructure has been, for some time now, in serious need of investment.
· The Creative Ireland Programme enables us think seriously about this issue – and how to change that.

As you may know, we are preparing a 10-year national capital plan for the country, which we aim to finalise early in the new year. This will involve a major allocation to our national cultural institutions and Arts and Heritage infrastructure around the country on a scale never seen in the history of the State. I look forward to Minister Madigan announcing the details in the New Year.

The democratisation of our cultural infrastructure has been a core value for Creative Ireland from its inception, and Minister Madigan has outlined very well what we want to do.

So, to conclude ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you every success with your deliberations today.

One of my favourite poets is Maya Angelou. She believed that ‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have’.

So let’s keep using our creativity in the service of Ireland and the world.

Thank you.