August 7, 2020
“Arts sector is criminally undervalued by government” – Chris MacManus MEP

“Arts sector is criminally undervalued by government” – Chris MacManus MEP

Sinn Féin MEP believes former Arts minister’s ‘Get a real job” attitude is unacceptable 

Midlands Northwest MEP Chris MacManus has branded comments made by Minister Heather Humphreys as “unacceptable”.

“It’s beyond belief that a former Arts Minister could use such demeaning language about a sector that provides us with so much.”

The Sinn Féin MEP was reacting to comments made by former minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys. In relation to the Arts sector Deputy Humphreys had stated that ‘It is best that we help people to reskill, retrain and look at other jobs they can take up.’ whilst also stating that “some jobs will not come back and there is no point in waiting for the never never.’

MacManus said for someone to suggest Artists should simply change careers or retrain for a new position is highly insulting and shows a lack of understanding in the difficulties faced in trying to carve out a career in the creative fields.

MacManus said: “For the majority of people the elevation to professionalism in any career is usually through four or five years of college or an apprenticeship or through specific on the job learning, but for many people who work in the arts their unique mastery is crafted over decades often without any real road map and with limited income in those formative years. For someone of Minister Humphrey’s experience to utter such careless and uninformed rhetoric is quite frankly beyond belief. By employing the ‘Get a real job’ attitude, she is furthering the outdated stereotype of Artists being hobbyists waiting for a lucky break when in reality we have a thriving sector that now needs support because of an unprecedented pandemic.”

“These ministers are often the first in line for photographs at openings and launches at various Arts events across the island yet when the Arts community seeks supports in a time when their sector has been obliterated they are faced with this callous attitude from government representatives.”

The Sligo based MEP said there is often a basic lack of understanding in terms of the bigger picture when we assess the value of the Arts in Ireland.  “I think governments often think of the Arts purely in terms of the tourism it can attract but it’s infinitely more important than that. Yes it’s arguably the primary generator of tourism in Ireland, but the quality of life the Arts brings in social terms is what attracts direct foreign investment too. It’s often a deciding factor in multinationals headquartering here in Ireland. “ 

“It’s a driving force for everyone’s productivity, whether it’s a TV show at the end of a long day or music on the radio on your lunch break or the trip to your local theatre at the end of your working week or that book you just can’t put down. The Arts community provides us with the moments we live for.”

“The Arts is pivotal in the management of our citizens’ mental health. Great Art helps us process everyday difficulties. It offers us new perspectives and arms us with the tools to not just survive but flourish. Likewise it’s the mainstay in the development of our children and young people.”

“Picture an Ireland without Joyce, Yeats, Kavanagh or Becket. An Ireland without U2, Thin Lizzy or The Dubliners. Picture an Ireland without Art Galleries or libraries or public sculptures or Cinemas. Imagine not being able to enjoy TV Dramas like Love/Hate and Normal People or comedies like Derry Girls or Young Offenders. Time and time again our creative communities have proven that we are the world leaders.”

“Successive governments have treated the Arts as some kind of peripheral afterthought when in actuality it should be front and centre in our decision making on how we create a better Ireland. “

The Sinn Féin MEP concluded that those who commit to a career in the Arts should be valued and supported especially in these difficult times.

“These are the people who make Ireland what it is. They need our full support at this time. 

Yes of course there are some who won’t quite ‘make it’ so to speak but those people will have transferable skills that will light up our workplaces. These are talented creatives who think laterally and will bring new progressive thinking to sectors that might otherwise become formulaic and predictable. An investment in the Arts and Artists is an investment in the future of Ireland.” ENDS

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