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Deceitful dichotomy in the superficial way the government deals with the Arts – Tóibín

22 June, 2016

Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for the Arts Peadar Tóibín has said that Ireland is neglecting the Arts to the detriment of a central component of Irish identity, saying that “the government has created a Frankenstein department without coherence spanning a diverse range including Ban an Tí’s, ballet, bogs, butterflies, and broadband.”

The Meath West TD said:

“The Arts, our heritage, our language and our culture are central to who we are as a people. They are deeply embedded in the psyche and the fabric of Irish society; in our towns and in our communities across the whole country. They give us a local sense of place and a sense of belonging.

“They are also central to our birth as a state. I can think of no other country that can map its genesis so completely to a revolution which was so immersed in the Arts, Culture, and Heritage.   

“When the government is abroad, it trades on the words of our Nobel Laurates. At home, the government wheels out the sector in order to impress, but there is a deceitful dichotomy in the superficial way that the state deals with the Arts.

“The sector depends on artists who on average earn not much more than social welfare rates.

“It is reasonably estimated that Ministers in this government earn 15 times the average annual salary of artists in this state. Precarious employment in the sector is the rule rather than the exception and in an unfortunate Irish tradition many of our finest artists are forced to leave in order to survive.

“The government has created a Frankenstein department without coherence spanning a diverse range including Ban an Tí’s, ballet, bogs, butterflies, and broadband.

“Governments see the sector as the first stop shop for cuts and budget reductions.  The Arts Council has lost 27% of its budget since 2008.  The Irish Language has lost 51% since 2008. The Heritage Council has lost over 60% of its funding since 2008.

“These are not victimless cuts. They hit at those at local level throughout the state that are the Arts Community. Funding is both a measure of government priority and the key foundation on which this sector operates. The Irish budget for the Arts is a 5th of the average European Budget.

“The necessary spaces in which artists cross pollinate cannot be created without funds. This government is involved in foolish economics. Even you measure the Arts sector with just the greasy till and ignore the intrinsic value of the art itself then you should know that investment in the arts makes economic sense.  

“According to Indecon, for every €1 invested in the Arts at least €3 are returned. Of the annual budget spent on the Arts nearly ¾ are directly returned to the exchequer through income tax, VAT and other taxes and for every €1 the Irish Film Board has invested in a film and television production.

“Every song, poem, film, painting, and play we produce creates a window for the rest of the world to peer through and get to know us as a people. This has enormous value that influences positively every further engagement we have with the rest of the globe. So even by this narrow measure alone the government’s policies are damaging.

“However, these measures alone are short sighted. They disregard the intrinsic value and contribution of the Arts, Heritage and Culture sectors to society.  They feed our souls, stimulate our minds and lift our spirits, something vitally important in these tough times.” 

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