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Basic income for artists in serious doubt as tender suggests €25m budget allocation is baseless – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

13 October, 2021 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Concerns have been raised by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, at the lack of preparation that preceded the announcement of €25 million for a pilot basic income for artists in Budget 2022 as it emerges basic questions such as who is an artist, who will be eligible and the scheme’s objectives have yet to even be discussed, decided or finalised.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“While we welcome the commitment to deliver basic income supports for artists who have been kept waiting for too long, it is a real worry that this figure of €25 million seems to have been plucked out of thin air, and there are serious questions about how and when this scheme will see the light of day.

“The tender for facilitating stakeholder engagement was posted this past week, with the deadline tomorrow (3pm Thursday 14th October), for expressions of interest. Part of the remit for the successful facilitators is to get input from artists and creative arts workers as to who should be eligible and what the objectives should be of a Basic Income for Artists scheme.

“If the Department is only embarking on its stakeholder engagement at the end of November, then there is little hope of seeing this pilot next year, especially given the 17 tasks or questions being set by the Department in its tender request for a successful bidder to complete. Importantly though if those questions are only being posed now, how did the Minister Catherine Martin and Minister Michael McGrath come up with the €25 million figure for a pilot scheme announced on Budget Day.

“If as the tender advertisement states that the purpose of the facilitation being tendered for is to “engage with artists and creative arts workers resource organisations and representative bodies ….. on the objectives of the pilot” and “to assist in defining selection criteria for eligibility for both creative arts workers, and artists”, then there is a long road ahead of us yet, before a pilot scheme is delivered.

This tender clearly shows that the Department doesn’t have a definition of an artist, how many artists/arts workers the scheme will cover, who would qualify and therefore the Ministers have no way of knowing how much the pilot scheme will cost to run next year and thereafter.

“For months artists’ representative groups and the public in general have been led to believe that this scheme was basically ready to go, and that an interdepartmental Oversight Group had been putting in the work for months to deliver a ‘oven-ready scheme’ before its funding was announced in the Budget. Despite me seeking clarity from Minister Catherine Martin regularly this year, we now learn that such basic questions– such as the definition of an artist – still haven’t been worked out. Rather than being oven-ready, this government doesn’t even know what ingredients are needed, for the promised cake.

“This also begs the question: What have the Oversight Group been doing all this time?"

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