Just back from a second visit to St Luke’s in Drumcondra, this time a productive meeting with Seán Nolan, on behalf of Bertie Ahern TD. We have now met all of the TDs (or their representatives) for Dublin Central.
I reiterated the arguments of our campaign; freezing Arts Council funding, keeping Arts in the portfolio of a full Minister at the Cabinet table and maintaining Culture Ireland, the Film Board and the artists’ tax exemption.
When we met Cyprian Brady TD in St Luke’s a few weeks ago he spoke of jobs and the need to support our arguments with hard facts. Since then the report commissioned by the Arts Council from Indecon International Economic Consultants has been published, making a very strong case for investment in arts and culture. I directed Seán’s attention to Page ii of the Executive Summary where it is made very clear how much employment and Gross Value Added is generated by investment. Furthermore I highlighted that in the arts sector many people are employed on a freelance basis so it’s not a matter of wage cuts, allowances and pensions but of opportunities to be employed at all. It would be much better to keep people in employment and hardly more expensive than having them on the dole. I put it that this would be money well spent when all the economic activity that is then generated by arts and culture is taken into account. Seán was impressed by the fact that our group has a strong local base but that it joined up with national initiatives, consistency in our message is important.
The Budget will be published on 9 December, a little over three weeks’ time. We must continue to make our case in the coming weeks. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to sign up with the National Campaign for the Arts and to encourage people you know to do so also. There are over 3,000 members of Arts Workers groups around the country. If everyone signs the petition and gets two more people to do so we should get near 10,000 signatures, if not beyond, by the end of the month.