Issue 128 – Yes, Minister

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Martin Cullen, sheds light on what the most recent budget means for the Irish Film industry. Sheena Sweeney interviews.


Sheena Sweeney: You must be tired after all that [the morning Dáil session].

Martin Cullen: Sure, I’m at it all morning, honest to God.

And how long will you go on now?

’Til half ten or eleven tonight.

Well, I’ll get on with it so… In the current climate some people might consider that film and the arts in general are unimportant. How would you answer that?

Well, obviously I wouldn’t agree with that assessment. I think there’s a lot of evidence to demonstrate that the arts in general, film, all of that, is hugely important in terms of marketing Ireland throughout the world. It’s quite obvious from the research we’ve done on the tourism side that films or television programmes with some location in Ireland play an enormous part in drawing people into the country. So there’s no doubt that the film industry as such, in all its different guises, is a crucial aspect. And it’s a business. It’s not just an added extra; I don’t see it in that sense. I see it as a very important economic driver for promoting Ireland and for doing business in Ireland, and for representing, if you like, the digital side of Ireland as well. People in the film industry are recognised as very talented. And they’re doing very well.

You’re talking there about why you think film is important. In terms of policy then, how is policy formed at government level?

Well, policy is formed… I mean, obviously we get reports done, we look at what’s happening in the industry, we look at what the competition is doing internationally, we look at how we can stay ahead of the game. An obvious outcome of that was extending Section 481. We were the first many years ago to incentivise through the tax system, in order to attract major films into Ireland. Other countries copied it, in effect, and some exceeded it – so where we were the world leader, it put us back a lot. But I suppose imitation is the highest form of flattery; it’s quite clear that the policies we implemented worked extremely well. So we took the opportunity this year to put us back in a very competitive position and I think already there’s evidence that it’s working and Ireland is back at the forefront.

Absolutely. Just sticking with policy though: what exactly is the policy? Just in a sentence or two, if you had to say what it was…

The policy is obviously to nurture the talent here in Ireland. We’ve gone from a thousand people employed in the early years of this decade to now over six thousand people. So it’s based on employment, it’s high end, it’s very creative and it’s very much part of the digital sector. It’s not isolated – it plays into this whole image of Ireland as digitally able and creative and at the cutting edge.

So what do you do then? You develop all the skills, you develop television programmes, you develop small films, you develop cultural films about Ireland, and then you make sure you’re in a position to attract the third element – international films and international investment into Ireland. This sustains Ardmore studios, sustains the high level of employment, and then gives a good quality product in return, which hopefully then leads to further investment in Ireland.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 128.