Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has slammed Minister Catherine Martin’s butchery of the Arts Budget
This comes at a time when performers and arts workers face venue closures as a result of skyrocketing energy costs on top of the cost of living crisis, just as they try getting back on their feet after two years of little to no work due to Covid restrictions.
The Dublin South-Central TD said:
“On Tuesday night, Sinn Féin identified that hidden beneath the glossy announcements about increases and expansions for arts funding in yesterday’s budget, the overall arts budget is in fact being slashed by €19 million.
“We finally had an admission, when Minister Martin was confronted with Sinn Féin’s charge at her press conference yesterday, about who’s going to pay for these cuts: Performers.
“According to the Minister, supports for the live performance sector simply aren’t needed this year.
“This is a disgraceful dismissal of the real plight of performers. The whole reason Live Performance Supports were put in place during the pandemic was because it was acknowledged that traditional funding streams like the Arts Council were not sufficient to keep musicians and others who normally sustain themselves without grant funding, but through income from performance work alone.
“These are the same workers most vulnerable now as they continue to recover following two years with little to no business, at a time when the entire industry is competing for gigs, and venues who can’t afford heating and electricity are closing down, leaving even fewer opportunities for business.
“This is only going to get worse over the winter, just as the cost of living crisis pushes these workers and performers further into precarity.
“What is Minister Martin’s response? To cut the entire €50 million in supports for live performance and redistributing those funds to other parts of the arts, while leaving the entire arts sector €19 million worse off than it was in 2022.
“€10 million of this will top up the basic income scheme funding. While we wish those on the scheme every success, it’s worth remembering that over 6,000 eligible applicants waited months only to be told they would not benefit. The selection process took no account either of merit or financial need, leaving the most vulnerable once again with nothing to protect them.
“Many are understandably disgusted that rather than providing a means-tested support to make sure unsuccessful applicants who are struggling to get by would not be left behind, like the hardship funding for arts workers that Sinn Féin has consistently called for, Minister Martin is in fact gutting those supports that were in place for musicians and performers.
“Those who were strung along for months waiting to hear back from the basic income scheme will also be astonished to learn that Minister Martin knew as far back as October 2021 that it would not be rolled out until ‘Middle Year to Autumn 2022’, which she yesterday claimed is why fewer was allocated for the scheme this year than next year.
“This is shocking considering performers and artists were told the first payments were set to begin in ‘early Spring’ at her Budget press conference last year, and ‘April’ in subsequent answers to parliamentary questions from myself and others, with the delays to later deadlines explained as unforeseen. When did Minister Martin know these dates were unrealistic?
“Either the Minister was lying at the time or is lying now.
“Another question not answered yesterday morning is what happens the remainder of the €25 million announced for the basic income scheme for the arts for 2022 that went unspent due to the delayed roll-out?
“Was this yet another of Minister Martin’s trademark phantom funding announcements, with as much as €17 million of promised arts funding at a time of crisis simply vanishing?
“Yesterday’s press conference leaves more questions than answers. All we learned is that the sector is indeed losing €19 million overall next year, and our performers are set to lose out most as they face into an incredibly difficult winter.
“A Sinn Féin Arts Minister would have increased rather than cut arts funding, and worked to ensure no performer or worker was left behind.”