Sinn Féin spokesperson for Tourism, Media and Sport, Imelda Munster TD, raised concerns that the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, failed to answer serious questions relating to Departmental estimates posed at the Dáil Select Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, and refuses to appear before the Committee on the Irish language, Gaeltacht and Irish Speaking Community.
Teachta Munster said:
“I am particularly worried about Minister Martin’s unwillingness to face parliamentary scrutiny and accountability where the spending of taxpayers’ money is concerned.
“Both Teachta Ciarán Cannon and I raised important questions about the €15 million that was announced only this week for the Live Performance Restart Grant Scheme (LPRGS) when Minister Martin came before us to discuss expenditure, and they remain unanswered.
“Previous Live Performance Support Schemes (LPSS) made funding to venues and production companies conditional on organising performances, meaning there was a guarantee that at least some of the money would trickle down to pay musicians and performers, but no such conditions apply this time.
“The Minister appeared to confirm that previous LPSS and emergency Covid funding recipient companies will automatically qualify for grants of up to €100,000 this time, without having to provide any further information outlining how the money will be used.
“If all those eligible apply for this automatic funding, that could use up €14.39 million of the €15 million, leaving only €610,000 for new applicants. When I pointed this out to the Minister, she refused to do anything about it now, only saying she’ll consider providing extra funding if the scheme is oversubscribed.
“The Minister needs to explain why she has designed a scheme where grants will be provided without expenses being vouched, and clarify what measures she is putting in place to ensure this funding – intended for performance – will not be used for other activities, bearing in mind that the primary focus of many eligible applicants is the pub business and selling alcohol. Culture funding must go to support culture, not alcohol sales.
“Venues and production companies need funding to help restart, but so do artists and performers, and we need confirmation that this funding will actually reach the pockets of musicians, who have been struggling for two years with little to no work.
“We also need confirmation that Minister Martin will finally go before the Committee on the Irish language, Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking Community to address their questions on these estimates, something my colleague Johnny Mythen TD raised at our Committee.
“Despite being solely responsible for giving the Irish language and Gaeltacht sector the smallest share of her Department’s budget (only 7%), and having sole direct oversight over funding for TG4 as Media Minister, Minister Martin has refused point blank to attend and show the Committee responsible for those areas the same respect she has shown us, choosing instead to send Minister of State Jack Chambers who has no role in these decisions and cannot answer questions on them.
“If Minister Martin is serious about transparency, she should agree to go before the Irish language Committee post haste, start providing answers to all of these questions, and stop hiding from parliamentary scrutiny.”