December 14, 2021
Forum must listen to artists and address key problems with basic income proposals – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has called for the stakeholder forum, taking place tomorrow on the proposed basic income guarantee for artists, to ensure whatever scheme is developed is artist-focused and worker-focused.

He added that the many outstanding questions around the scheme’s purpose and design are taken seriously rather than being brushed over to save time.

The Dublin South-Central TD said:

“The hopes of many artists and arts workers, most of whom have suffered massively during this pandemic, are resting on this proposed scheme, which is why we have to get it right.

“Many do not know that the Minister appears intent on restricting the scheme to a random sample of only a minority in the sector, or that it is no longer intended to be a pilot of a universal basic income, as was demanded by the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce last year.

“Without being a UBI pilot, it is unclear why the Department is sticking to a UBI model without examining the intermittents du spectacle used in France, or other creative systems for funding the arts in Sweden and Norway. 

“Rather than looking at the problems in the sector first to work out a solution, they appear to have picked a solution and now have to work out what issues it might solve.

“With precarity and poverty rising sharply in the arts sector, we need more than a sticking plaster of €200 a week for a select few artists.

“The basic questions I set out months ago have yet to be answered: How is ‘artist’ defined? Who will be eligible? Will the basic income guarantee impact on social protection entitlements, like medical cards or disability allowance, or on the ability to earn?

“Minister Catherine Martin has promised to open the scheme for applications next month, even though midway through December and we’re still none the wiser on what it will look like. Neither the time frame nor the questionable maths coming from the Department seem to add up.

“Artists who have waited this long cannot afford a rushed job, and we need to know that people whose livelihoods depend on the arts will receive a proper hearing at tomorrow’s stakeholder forum.

“We cannot have a repeat of the box-ticking exercises we have seen dressed up as ‘stakeholder engagement’, at which lockdown restrictions were presented as a fait accompli to the live performance sector throughout this pandemic with no warning, no consultation and minimal support.

“The €25 million committed to this scheme, if used properly, could be a game-changer for how the arts are funded for generations. 

“Done incorrectly, however, we risk fostering division within the arts sector, undermining goodwill towards artists, and even inadvertently impoverishing people in already precarious situations.

“Sinn Féin wants to see this scheme succeed and hope tomorrow’s stakeholder forum will provide clarity.”

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