For Oral Answer on : 09/05/2018

Question Number(s): 54,66 Question Reference(s): 20001/18, 19979/18

Department: Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht


For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9 May, 2018.

* To ask the Minister for Culture; Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to the Boaden Report in respect of the future of the National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the report’s recommendation that the NSO become a national cultural institution; the action she plans to take on foot of this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Joan Burton T.D.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9 May, 2018.


Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Josepha Madigan):

RTÉ recently published the report it commissioned from independent consultants Helen Boaden and Mediatique on the RTÉ Orchestras entitled RTÉ Orchestras: Ensuring a Sustainable Future. The report has recommended, inter alia, that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra should be a national cultural institution in its own right or within the National Concert Hall and that the RTÉ Concert Orchestra should continue to be part of RTÉ, functioning as a classic radio orchestra. This is based on researching the model of symphonic music provision around Europe and the changing environment in which public sector broadcasting now exists.

Both the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I have welcomed the recommendations of the report and in particular that recommendation dealing with the status of the National Symphony Orchestra. The report offers the opportunity now to plan a way forward for both orchestras while ensuring that they can contribute fully to Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.

We have asked officials in our Departments to advance the recommendations of the report as a matter of priority. This will require intense engagement between both our Departments, RTÉ and the National Concert Hall. The concerns of employees of the orchestras will also be to the forefront of considerations and there will need to be significant engagement with them in this regard. I expect to bring an early report to Government to chart a way forward which will include the steps needed to address the recommendations.

This is an exciting time for orchestral music in Ireland with the proposed redevelopment of the National Concert Hall and the Government’s ambition under the Creative Ireland programme. Since it opened, the National Concert Hall has been the home of the National Symphony Orchestra and there is now an opportunity for it to play an even stronger role as part of these wider developments. The proposals in this report should be of long-term benefit to the musicians in both orchestras and should help address long-standing concerns about orchestral provision in Ireland.

Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, who is the head of the RTÉ orchestras, has stated that they “have a singular place in Irish musical heritage and have nurtured, through performance and education, generations of world-class musicians.” The report confirms this view while also recognising RTÉ’s overall funding position as it plans for the future. These recommendations offer a solution which protects and supports both orchestras while also recognising the balance between RTÉ’s financial constraints and its public service role in promoting music, arts and culture. RTÉ is going to give the recommendations full consideration.

As the Deputy is aware, RTÉ is funded by the licence fee in addition to commercial income. Licence fee payers are members of the public, as are taxpayers, and therefore it is the public that pays for orchestral provision and our public service broadcasting. It is now proposed that the Government would fund part of the cost of the National Symphony Orchestra totalling €4 million, with RTÉ continuing to fund the balance.

It is also recommended that the National Symphony Orchestra become a stand-alone entity or become part of the National Concert Hall. I am already on record as supporting these recommendations, which will ensure that orchestral music is allowed to grow and flourish once again in Ireland

The report envisages that RTÉ will continue to contribute substantially towards the costs of the orchestra in order to secure broadcasting rights, but €4 million from the Exchequer will be required. This issue will also be considered by officials. I do not want to prejudge, however, what proposals might be generated in this regard.

It is important that the Deputy note that the valuation will cover the optimum model for the National Symphony Orchestra, either as a stand-alone agency or as part of the National Concert Hall. It will also examine opportunities for growth and development within any new governance structures. It will also examine legal requirements for any new governance structure, including any changes to legislation, any issues in respect of the transfer of employment rights of employees, short and medium-term funding arrangements and governance arrangements. Following consideration of these proposals, I plan to bring a memo to the Government with a view to implementing a programme of action in this regard.