Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, today called for a full explanation from Minister Catherine Martin as to why the long-awaited basic income for the arts has been delayed for the third time since applications closed.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“Minister Martin has spent over a year promising artists whose livelihoods were destroyed by pandemic restrictions that a basic income was on the way.
“The Minister provided hope to many when she committed €25 million to it in the Budget last year on the basis that applications would open in early Q1 2022, with the first payments promised for April.
“Instead, applications did not open until April, and now we know it will be after Budget 2023 before any funding actually reaches artists’ pockets.
“Applicants were then emailed in May to say that the high level of applicants – 9,000 – meant they applicants would have to wait until June to find out if they were successful. Then they were emailed in June to say the same high level of applicants meant they had to delay until July.
“Now as July draws to a close, they received a third email, with the same excuse about the high level of applicants being used to justify delaying selection until September.
“Given that there has been no change in the number of applicants since May, why the repeated delays? This comes after the opening of applications was delayed, as a result of the consultation with stakeholders being delayed from last year.
“This effectively means that the €25 million promised for the scheme in Budget 2022 was a phantom figure, and won’t in fact be spent this year.
“To the many artists who have been forced to sell equipment, leave the sector, or even emigrate to make ends meet in the meantime, a €25 million underspend for vital arts supports at a time when the sector is on its knees would be a total betrayal.
“Minister Martin has proven utterly incapable of keeping her word to our artistic community and cultural workers. How many more months can they face being strung along with the promise of getting supports, if they’re lucky enough to be picked at all?
“It was a shameful decision to begin with for the Minister to turn what was originally proposed by the Taskforce as a recovery programme for all artists and arts workers into what is now essentially a lottery system for the lucky few, based on pure chance rather than need, that won’t reach anybody until far too late to aid recovery.
“Minister Martin must explain how her Department ended up blindsided by 9,000 applications to begin with, when the very report where the basic income was first proposed itself identified a potential 55,000 directly employed in the wider arts sector.
“What sort of numbers had been expected and planned for, and what work went into setting deadlines and making sure they were realistic before making promises they could not keep?
“Had she been honest from the start about timelines, Minister Martin could have put in place a robust system of temporary immediate supports at the same time as this pilot was being developed – like Sinn Féin’s proposal for a Hardship Fund to help those struggling most – instead of rejecting them on the basis that this basic income would be up and running within no time.
“Instead of unachievable deadlines and phoney excuses, it’s time for government to give artists some respect. The 9,000 applicants need a cast iron guarantee from Minister Martin that they won’t get another last-minute email in September telling them they’ll just have to wait another few months.”