Coronavirus: Connolly condemns lack of support for artists

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Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has criticised the lack of support the government is providing for the arts and artists in the Covid-19 crisis, and called on it to engage with representatives of the sector.

Deputy Connolly said that successive governments have had “inconsistent” attitudes towards the arts, between what they say, and the actual financial support provided to artists.

“We treasure the arts on a national and international basis but then practically we give them very little.”

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Deputy Connolly accused Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan of “spin”

The government announced a €1 million scheme to support Irish and Irish based artists in April.

The scheme, which will be administered by the Arts Council of Ireland, will award grants of €3,000 to individual artists to create works during this pandemic.

The scale of the government’s response has come under criticism, with the National Campaign for the Arts saying it is “dismayed” by the lack of vision shown in relation to the arts.

It said that while this is a “small investment” in individual artists, does not apply to many kinds of artistic practice, and other measures such as like ‘Shining a Light’ have little to do with professional arts practice and do not address the real damage that has been done to the sector by this crisis.

Galway, where the arts are a huge cultural and economic part of life, has suffered from large parts of the annual International Arts Festival and Capital of Culture programme which will not be able to go ahead this year.

Deputy Connolly compared the amount of funding being put forward by the Irish government with Scotland’s response, where £12.5 million is being invested in the arts sector across three funds.

In comparison, a figure of €12 billion was put forward to support small businesses by Minister Health Humphreys as essential.

“Yet we look at the arts and talk about a tiny amount of money. We are not giving recognition to the importance of arts to the economy, not to mention anything else.

“It is ironic that one of the bestsellers at the moment is The Plague by Albert Camus from 1947. That tells us something, does it not?

“It is a bestseller at the moment. We resort to art, including literature and music, all of the time. This has all been said,” Catherine Connolly said.

The Independent TD asked Minister Madigan to meet with the NCFA, which represents approximately 23,000 artists.

“It is not looking for charity or even for a handout. These artists are looking to survive so that we can continue to thrive because of our artists.”