Here’s an update on our meetings with Senator Paschal Donohue (FG) and Cyprian Brady, TD (FF), a little later than intended due to it being festival time at the day job. Our messages in both meetings were as follows.
At a national level –
1. Freezing of the allocation to the Arts Council at the level for 2009
2. Continuation of Arts as part of the portfolio of a full ministry in order that arts and culture have a seat at the Cabinet table
3. Maintenance of Culture Ireland in light of its significant positive contribution to Ireland’s reputation abroad at this crucial time
4. Maintenance of the Irish Film Board as an autonomous organisation, contrary to the recommendation to incorporate it into Enterprise Ireland
At a local level –
1. Recruitment of a new arts officer to replace Jack Gilligan on his retirement in October
2. Maintenance of Dublin City Council’s current spend on its arts programmes at €625,000
First up we met Paschal in one of Phibsboro’s fine coffee shops on the morning of September 17. As you can read on his website Paschal is very interested in arts and is fully supportive of our campaign. However, he made the point that we are making our case alongside many other interest groups at a time of considerable economic challenges. He encouraged us to emphasise the economic benefits flowing from arts and culture in addition to their social impact. Pascal also has experience of governance in an arts institution as a former member of the board of the Hugh Lane. He emphasised that, as in other aspects of Irish society, arts organisations must maintain the public’s trust by practising impeccable governance. Another interesting point made was that we should be mindful when casting our spokespersons that there is a broad representation across interests and age groups. Paschal suggested that if the public see the same faces again and again, however eloquent they may be and however celebrated as artists, there is the danger of a perception of an arts establishment and our message not having as wide an impact as we would wish. I hope that the lineup at the launch of the National Campaign for the Arts will have gone a way towards this addressing this concern.
The next day we were in Drumcondra to meet Cyprian Brady, TD in St Luke’s. Once again there was a sympathetic hearing for our case and a reminder of the very difficult budgetary position the Government is in. In this context Deputy Brady said that our arguments would have to be supported by hard facts and numbers. We spoke about the report the Abbey commissioned on its economc impact, cited here, the DKM study recently delivered to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Arts Council’s forthcoming Indecon report. While there isn’t one comprehensive and overarching report we hoped that together these documents can support arguments for the economic as well as the intrinsic value of the arts. We reiterated that our group was composed of 500 residents of Dublin Central who make their living in the arts and who feel very directly the need to maintain employment.
Cyprian very helpfully suggested that a small delegation from the Arts Workers groups meet the Select Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and that we send him a request by email, which he would pass on to Tom Kitt, TD, the committe’s Chair. An email was sent that later that day saying that we would be available from September 28 to meet the Committee at its convenience. Watch this space.