July 31, 2021
Musicians need reopening plan and income security – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has criticised Minister Catherine Martin for failing to provide a reopening plan for the live performance sector.

The Dublin South Central TD said:

“Without a timeline to reopen, artists cannot book venues, and their lives and livelihoods are kept on indefinite hold. As pubs, tourism and hospitality are reopening all around them, the music sector has been totally left behind.

“It is ridiculous to read reports of Minister Martin now writing to other ministers to ask for ‘active engagement’ and of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste being committed to ‘examining the issue in the coming months’. 

“Are we to assume that the necessary engagement and examination has not taken place until now?

“At this rate, the summer will be well finished before musicians get a glimpse of when they will be allowed back to work, and responsibility for this lack of planning lies entirely at the door of Minister Martin.

“The music sector is haemorrhaging workers to the construction sector and to foreign shores as they are sick of the platitudes and lack of opportunities provided to them here. 

“When I warned about this very issue months ago, Minister Martin responded dismissively that ‘the potential for such impacts is not immediately evident’.

“The impact is sadly all too evident now, as the recent report by the Arts Council lays bare, and I commend those who compiled that study for shedding light on the crisis.

“It is a damning indictment that almost half of arts workers are contemplating leaving the arts, but not surprising when all the government is promising them is a cut to their Pandemic Unemployment Payment, a change to jobseeker status, and insulting calls to ‘upskill’ to other sectors.

“It is unfathomable that Minister Martin won’t even respond to my parliamentary questions asking if she’s raised the impact PUP cuts will have on musicians with the Minister for Social Protection, saying that it is a matter for social protection, nothing to do with her.

“She cannot wash her hands of the need to provide basic income supports to a vital sector that is entirely shut down by government, nor can she pawn off the need to produce a reopening plan to other members of cabinet.

“This approach is one of neglect. She has ignored calls from the music sector to pilot test events in small venues and pubs to test health measures that can be replicated as part of a nationwide reopening, and she has also not delivered on her promises with regard to the €50 million in funding. 

“I am glad to see the Minister finally heed our calls to lower the turnover threshold for the Music & Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme to €15,000. But it is a disgrace that successful applicants are still waiting for their payments 6 weeks later, and this delay must be resolved as a matter of urgency.

“Our cultural industry, which has played a vital role throughout the pandemic in keeping us going, can play a major role in our reopening and economic recovery if only it is given the planning and support it deserves.

“Minister Martin must put together the reopening plan post haste, and use her influence to pressure the Minister for Social Protection not to cut the PUP for industries not yet reopened, and to pressure the Minister for Finance to ensure our arts are fully-funded as we emerge from the crisis.”

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