Three quarters of those working in the arts can’t make ends meet

16 May 2019

Sheila Nunan slams poor levels of arts funding and pledges to secure Ireland’s share of EU funding.

Responding to evidence presented to the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht report ‘Arts Matter’ which highlighted the significant cuts imposed over the last decade. Funding for the arts has dropped by ten per cent despite assurances from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he would double this figure.

Ireland South European election candidate, Sheila Nunan, has pledged to seek a fair share of EU funding for the arts, the so called ‘Creative Europe Programme’. Recently the scheme was amended to make it fairer, including changes to improve the delivering of funding to women, educational projects, projects which tackle youth unemployment and social exclusion. Ms Nunan has cited the need for a fairer share of funding for Ireland South, alongside increased funding for the most vulnerable members working in the arts. Ms Nunan said:

“Cultural and creative industries represent up to 4.5% of EU GDP. They can provide fulfilling jobs, especially for young people. However, many of our artists are living in poverty and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to live with no security, no pensions and no means to plan for their futures. Recent data has shown that 75% of people working in the arts and creative sectors rely on secondary sources of income to make ends meet.”

A survey carried out recently by Theatre Forum, a body representing Ireland’s performing arts community, established to advance its interests to ensure a sustainable future, found that many artists struggled to provide for themselves and their dependents due to the precarious nature of their occupation. Ms Nunan continued,

“This situation is unacceptable. The average weekly income of Irish artists is €490 a week, €24,600 a year against the national weekly average of €740 a week, €39,000 a year. This is just the average. I strongly believe that all workers deserve and should have decent working conditions and a living wage in order to provide for themselves and their families.

“These artists find themselves caught in a web of ‘institutionalised begging’, project awards, bursaries, grants, residencies, free office spaces, mentorships, etc. We have to amend our structures and support the people working in our arts sector.

Ms Nunan welcomed recent changes to the EU Directive on Copyright which aim to enhance the rights of creatives- musicians, performers, script authors and publishers, giving them the ability to negotiate better remuneration deals for the use of their work when it features on internet platforms. While other parts of the directive may be problematic. (The internet companies lobbied strongly against this directive but green MEPs were also critical). This directive must be enacted by mid-2021.

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