Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Protecting and Enhancing the Irish Music Industry: Discussion
We will now discuss the topic of the protecting and enhancing of the Irish music industry with Mr. Danny McCarthy and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. I welcome the Mr. McCarthy, an tUas. Séamus Mac Cormaic, an tUas. Pádraig Ó Flannagáin, oifigeach caidreamh poiblí, Attracta Ní Bhrádaigh, ard-ollamh, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann anuraidh, and Ann Marie Ní Ghallacóir, oifigeach caidreamh poiblí, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann i nDoire 2013.
I draw attention to the fact that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a person, persons or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Any submission or opening statement witnesses have submitted to the committee will be published on its website after the meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
Before we commence, I am glad to welcome the representative of the Irish music industry to the committee. I pay particular tribute to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for the wonderful display of culture it has provided to our European guests for the last six months for the various events that took place as part of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. I attended one of these events myself and it was wonderful to see such a display of Irish culture presented in so professional and enjoyable a manner. I pay a special welcome to my colleague and friend from Roscrea, an tUas. Pádraig Ó Flannagáin.
It is of vital economic importance that Ireland, so famous for its music both traditional and modern, remains proud of that heritage, a vital part of our identity. Whether it is the music of Ó Cearbhalláin in the 18th century, The Chieftains, any of the new emerging talents in the 21st century, or even Deputy McGrath singing and dancing, we have contributed enormously to the art of music writing and delivery. That economic importance is why the committee has invited the witnesses here today to address it on this topic. We are interested in hearing their views and lending our support to any proposals they have to develop and benefit this sector.
I invite Mr. Danny McCarthy to make his opening remarks.
Mr. Danny McCarthy:
On behalf of Noel Cusack, of the Chart label, and John Cooke, from Tara Records, this is the time of the year when they must generate as much business as possible. In view of the serious circumstances in sales and marketing, these men face a nightmare and that is why they could not be with me today.
Serious concern must now be given to the Irish music industry, of which folk and traditional music are a major part, if they are to be considered for the future. The major stumbling block continues to be the lack of percentage air play for Irish music, and the total lack of support from radio and TV stations nationwide.
How do we know that the problem exists and has existed for decades? The simple answer can be seen in the royalties collected from broadcasters nationwide by IMRO annually, which in 2010 amounted to about €10 million, with an average of 93% going abroad to foreign songwriters, composers and publishers. This average would be consistent with other years, and cannot be contradicted. It shows that roughly 7% air play is granted to Irish music.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and his predecessors have continually stated that due to a complaint made to the European Commission, 30% air play could not be granted to Irish music on the basis it would discriminate against European singers and musicians. I have received articles on the references made by the Minister and a synopsis of Articles 18, 49 and 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union for the percentage quota of Irish music the Minister referred to, and sent to Gay Mitchell, MEP, show little evidence on percentage air play. Article No. 18 is a reference to the rights of every citizen of the European Union to be allowed to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states subject to conditions and measures adopted in the treaty. The freedom of establishment in Article No. 49 means the free movement of self-employed persons. For them, as for salaried workers, the basic principle is equality of treatment of all EU citizens, meaning the abolition of discrimination based on nationality.
Article No. 56 states that the restrictions on freedom to provide services within the Union are prohibited in respect of nationals of member states who are established in a state other than that for whom the services are intended.
The reply from Ms Kroes on behalf of the European commission to a question on percentage air play presented by Gay Mitchell MEP on my behalf to the Commission was that to the Commission's knowledge no decision has been adopted regarding a music quota system in Ireland. As already said, the obligation to reserve air time for Irish music on Irish radio stations would have to be assessed in the light of the EU internal market rules. I was also informed by the editor of Hot Press, Mr. Niall Stokes, that there was never any EC legislation with regard to 30% air play. The French could legislate for 40% on the basis of language and culture in 1996, with the French Communications Minister stating at the time that it did not seem outrageous for two of every five songs to be French and that otherwise the language and culture would become homogenised. Surely similar consideration must now be given to the music and culture of Ireland.
The Canadians have also shown the value for their music so much so that they believe in the importance of promoting and protecting the music and its production through working closely with recording studios, live music venues, concert promoters and managers, record companies and a minimum of 35% air play for all Canadian music. The Canadians saw the problem for their music from the USA encroaching on their home-produced music as far back as 1964.
The numbers of Irish musicians, including traditional and folk musicians I represent today, who are continually affected by the lack of percentage air play is now very substantial. If a minimum of 30% air play - three of every ten songs being Irish recordings - were to be legislated it could seriously help to generate employment across the Irish music sector from songwriters, composers, publishers, singers, musicians, recording studios, sound engineers, session musicians, producers, CD and DVD manufacturers, printers, photographers, music management PR companies, indigenous record companies and distributors, on-line sales, live concerts, theatres, pubs and hotels, while also offering huge support to the tourism industry. That increased employment would offer increased stability to the Irish economy. Hundreds, if not thousands of jobs are affected because of poor legislation.
It was part of the Fine Gael and Labour agenda during the last elections to seek job creation and we are presenting a case within the Irish music sector. In plain, simple terms, Irish recorded music must be composer/lyricist, the performer, recording studio, publishing company and record company, inclusive of all genders, with serious consideration being given to both the English and Irish language as having similar rights and respects. With a minimum of 30% air play this would help to guarantee the protection of middle ground creators and performers in making a greater impact and help to create marketing, sales and employment within the Irish music sector.
Change is now necessary as we cannot retreat any further. Air play for Irish music is at an all time low, and consideration must now be given to a fairer and more equitable distribution of air play for all. The radio and television stations nationwide cannot be allowed to continue making decisions about how much and what Irish music will be played. There is an abundance of diverse creative Irish music to grant a minimum of 30%, which would mean the retention of millions of euro in royalties for all Irish songwriters, composers and publishers.
Dialogue and proper percentage air play legislation are the only way forward to create a strong Irish music industry, which can be achieved only by the EC and the Irish Government producing legislation to achieve these goals. The Irish Government and the Commission must now consider the legislation of a minimum of 30% air play for Irish music on the basis of equality, marketing, sales and employment. If all of these considerations are taken into account then a greater percentage of the Irish music industry could be gainfully and financially rewarded, and given the respect and employment they deserve.
The IMF has requested the Irish Government and the European Commission to give greater consideration to job creation as the way forward out of this recession for Ireland and we are presenting a very positive response, not only for the Irish music industry but also for what Irish cultural music means to tourism.
The setting up of an advisory body, involving all aspects of the community, including the BAI and the music industry itself, to examine proper percentage legislation for Irish music air play, and the seeking of advice on the French legislation are imperative. If there is an objection from the BAI, the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland or RTE, surely the retort must be that this dilemma was created by them and their lack of consideration for an Irish music industry which must now be developed through proper percentage air play to generate and sustain marketing, sales and employment for the distant future.
Mr. Séamus Mac Cormaic:
Is mise Séamus Mac Cormaic, iar-uachtarán an chomhaltais. I mo theannta tá Attracta Ni Bhradaigh, ard ollamh, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann anuraidh, Ann Marie Ní Ghallacóir, oifigeach caidreamh poibli, Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann i nDoire 2013, agus Pádraig Ó Flannagáin, oifigeach caidreamh poibli an chomhaltais. Táimid fíor-bhuíoch as an chuireadh a thabhairt dúinn teacht anseo inniu.
We are delighted to be here today to make a presentation on Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. It was founded in Mullingar in 1951, its aims being the promotion and fostering of Irish traditional music, song, dance, the Irish language and all aspects of Irish culture. In the past 62 years the movement has endeavoured to work on achieving these aims with considerable success. Today Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has in excess of 400 branches with units in every county in Ireland, units in Britain, in the United States and Canada, in Australia, in South America and in a number of European and Asian countries. Branches outside of Ireland provide a significant link for the Irish diaspora and promote our culture to wide spectrum internationally. Tour concert groups from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann travel to Britain and North America every year and we also respond to invites from other countries. Groups have accompanied Presidents and trade delegations from Ireland on numerous occasions and this year we have entertained dignitaries during Ireland's presidency of the EU.
A central element in CCE activity is our education programmes and Attracta will give an overview of all the aspects of the education programmes. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is a community-based movement with a democratic structure based on a constitution, ar a dtugaimid an bunreacht. Branches and county and regional boards elect officers annually. There are six provincial councils with the governing body, the ard comhairle, being elected by the membership.
Volunteerism is at the heart of all Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann related activities and this is a key strength in our movement. More than 1,000 classes are organised to assist in the transmission of music, song and dance to succeeding generations. Fleadhanna ceoil are held in each county and region to enable young performers to pace themselves on the road to excellence. In excess of 25,000 young people take part in the fleadh competitions annually.
Ann Marie Ní Ghallachóir will give a presentation later on Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann 2013, which will be held in Derry in August.
Over the past decade, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has established seven regional resource centres and nine outreach centres to provide services to branches and communities throughout Ireland. We acknowledge with gratitude the significant support from Governments in recent years, which has provided financial support to enable these premises to be completed and to be debt free. We also acknowledge ongoing Government support to enable us to keep a core staff to provide backup to the thousands of volunteers in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. In a major review of the financial affairs of CCE, conducted by the Government in 2009, we were singled out for praise in regard to accountability for use of State funding, particularly in regard to value for money.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is a major youth movement and up to 70% of fleadh attendees are young people. Today young people are proud to play Irish traditional music, sing Irish songs and dance sean nós and group dances. Young people involved in CCE-related activities have a significant focus away from anti-social behaviour. Young people are involved at all levels and we reserve two places on our governing body, the ard chomhairle, for people under 25. CCE has been supportive of the Irish language since its foundation. Tá an teanga Gaeilge fite fuaite tré gach gné de imeachtaí an chomhaltais. We have produced a programme to support people learning the language, Focal ar Fhocal. The language is promoted informally through all comhaltas related activities.
Visitors to Ireland want to experience events and activities that are distinctly Irish. Through our seisiún shows during the summer and through our fleadhanna and traditional festivals we provide a range of experiences for visitors and we give visitors an insight into a variety of aspects of traditional Irish culture. Other significant areas of comhaltas activity include: the collection of archive material, songs, stories, tunes and dances; Trad for Trócaire, an annual event to support the Third World; and liaison with organisations with similar aims, such as the GAA, Foras na Gaeilge and Conradh na Gaeilge.
Mar fhocal scoir, gabhaim buíochas leis an gcoiste as ucht an seans a thabhairt duinn labhairt anseo inniu. Attracta Brady will now present the details in regard to all aspects of the comhaltas education programme.
Ms Attracta Ní Bhrádaigh:
Gabhaim míle buíochas as an gcuireadh seo. Mar a dúirt Séamus Mac Cormaic cúpla nóiméad ó shin, táim chun caint faoi chonas a chabhraíonn CCE le tionsclaíocht cheol na hÉireann.
How do the comhaltas education services aid the Irish music industry? Ar an gcéad dul síos, tá níos mó ná 1,000 ranganna ceoil, amhránaíochta agus damhsa ag an gcomhaltas gach seachtain. More than 1,000 music, dancing and singing classes are organised throughout Ireland every week. Some 700 teachers have qualified to date with the TTCT, the teastas i dteagasc ceolta tíre, a teaching diploma recognised and accepted by the Teaching Council. This diploma has been run by the comhaltas for over 30 years.
Classes are divided into instrument classes, which concentrate on the skills of playing the music on every traditional musical instrument and group classes, which direct the young musicians in teamwork and dynamics of group playing. The children are coached in performance of a number of styles during these classes. These increase the experience and confidence of young performers, thus preparing them for a variety of performance stages such as solo playing, group unison and harmony, seisiúin, concerts, tours, music exams and competitions. Regional ensembles are trained to perform at many events, such as gig rigs at all fleadhanna ceoil, up to and including Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
The scrúdú ceol tíre, SCT, exam is a 12-level graded performance examination system, based on best international practice, which provides a structured learning framework for students. The senior grades also require written submissions from candidates, as part of the exam, on various aspects of our culture, thus ensuring that candidates have an excellent understanding of the history and background of instruments, famous musicians, events, etc.
All branches organise recitals, concerts and seisiúin for their students to aid and increase the experiential learning opportunity. Many of these events are run for the benefit of other community groups, thereby adding a valuable extra dimension of providing entertainment while helping others in the community. Social capital is therefore built within these groups from a very early stage. Youth exchange programmes with groups both within Ireland and abroad are organised annually and are important activities for sharing and reinforcing the traditions. They serve as a valuable life experience for many young people.
Competitions in fleadhanna ceoil provide young musicians with invaluable opportunities to gain public performance experience. As Séamus said, some 25,000 competitors take part in these fleadhanna ceoil every year. In Ireland alone, some 37 fleadhanna ceoil provide thousands of young musicians, singers and dancers with a platform to perfect their playing and performance.
Summer camps also introduce traditional music, song and dance to many children throughout the summer months. They provide an opportunity for young members to learn about event management throughout the organisation and running of these camps. The apprenticeship style of learning is most often adopted here, with senior comhaltas members encouraging and actively aiding the younger members to take ownership of these youth events. Scoil Éigse, the annual week-long summer school of master classes and recitals is attended by up to 1,000 students. Many students attend these classes having achieved scholarship standard at provincial fleadhanna ceoil. A FETAC accredited course for the production and performance of traditional Irish arts runs annually in Brú Ború, Cashel in County Tipperary. It has been in operation for approximately 15 years at FETAC level five.
In summary, CCE provides formal and informal music education services to children and people of all ages. We are very proud of our members who have gone on to become commercial artists, not just in Ireland but throughout the world. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Mr. Pádraig Ó Flannagáin:
Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá i dtaobh airgeadas. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is well placed to make a positive contribution to the Irish economy as well as to the self-confidence of the Irish people. The comhaltas organisation is now active in 15 countries and four continents, with units in such places as Sydney, Moscow, Argentina, Chile, Japan, Sardinia and Bogota, to mention a few. These are valuable contact points that provide a focus for Ireland as a place, rich in culture and tradition. Presenting a country in this positive light facilitates its consideration as a place to visit. Ultimately, it culminates in financial gains for the tourism sector in Ireland. At home in Ireland, there are significant spin-offs from comhaltas activity. A recent independent assessment of the three years of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Cavan concluded that the number of visitors to the area was 800,000, generating €105 million for the region. It is not uncommon for people to find that accommodation is not available within 20 miles of the hosting town during the weekend of the fleadh.
Members have already heard that up to 25,000 people compete at fleadhanna ceoil each year and many of the instruments being played are produced in Ireland. Some competitors compete in a number of competitions. The more young people learn and play music, the more income is generated for the craftsmen who make the instruments, ultimately benefiting the Irish economy. There is a comparable situation in regard to dancing. With regard to music recording, a number of comhaltas units and many individual musicians produce recordings of music or song, an activity which in turn supports the recording sector. This activity in turn facilitates businesses engaged in the retail and broadcasting sectors.
Mar fhocal scoir, the activity generated as a direct consequence of the normal business of comhaltas indirectly supports many other sectors. Mar a deireann an seanfhocal, "ls ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine."
Ms Ann Marie Ní Ghallacóir:
In January 2012, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann made the historic decision to bring Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Derry from 11 to 18 August 2013. This is the first time the fleadh has ever been hosted north of the Border. This decision has brought a raft of benefits not only to the North of Ireland, but to the entire island.
During our bid process we had cross-party and cross-Border support for Derry. The fleadh ceoil is seen as an extremely significant cultural event in its own right, but it is also part of a wider city of culture project that is happening in our city this year. We see the fleadh as an opportunity to develop genuine cross-community and cross-Border reconciliation and to build civic unity. The fleadh ceoil has enable reconciliation on a level that has not been able to be achieved through political, social or economic means. Music and culture have enable us to build bridges with people who might not necessarily want to engage otherwise.
Progress so far has been extremely positive. We established a community relations subgroup, including a cultural forum which brought together both traditions and others for the first time, to discuss how we can use the fleadh to bring communities together. We also established a stakeholders forum, where we bring together wider society to talk through some of the issues. The fleadh ceoil has made a bold statement in the context of its venues, through the significant use of Ebrington Square, which is a former British military army base in Derry which until recently was not available for the use of the community. We have also taken the decision to use the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and St. Columbs Cathedral in order to embrace all communities in our city.
We have had very significant participation of the Londonderry bands forum in discussions around events connected to the fleadh ceoil. This is the first time this forum has ever engaged with any cultural group outside of its own forum. We believe significant progress can be made, both during the fleadh and afterwards in terms of reconciliation. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
I apologise for cutting the group short earlier, but I had only two speakers marked to contribute on the agenda. I am delighted to have heard all speakers. The contributions have been very informative and they have given us much food for thought.
There are one or two points that struck me. I was a bit taken aback by Mr. McCarthy saying there is a total lack of support from radio and TV stations nationwide. I would have thought the situation was different and that the two stations in my area, Tipp FM and Tipperary Mid West radio, were great supporters of Irish music and traditions.
In a moment. Mr. Ó Flannagáin referred to the important factor of the economy and mentioned that some 800,000 visitors attended the fleadh ceoil when it was held in Cavan and this was worth €105 million to the region. That significant amount came from an independent assessment. Can Mr. Ó Flannagáin tell us more about that? How independent was the assessment? We hear figures thrown about and hear much speculation as to worth, value and attendances. Therefore, it would be important to be able to verify these are real figures.
We will allow Mr. McCarthy respond first.
Mr. Danny McCarthy:
There is a total lack of support and I will tell the Vice Chairman why I say that. The facts are clear if one looks at the percentage of royalties going abroad. If we got 30% of air play, we could retain over €3 million per annum in royalties for Irish song writers and composers.
To answer the Vice Chairman's question, before the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland came into being, I asked the BCI how it categorised folk and traditional music and I discovered it categorised it as "country and Irish". We are not about country and Irish music. We are concerned with music that is identifiable from generation to generation. I do not accept Irish music being identified as "country and Irish". If the Vice Chairman wants to accept it be recognised on that basis, he is welcome to that, but certainly it does not reflect the music I represent here today.
Mr. Pádraig Ó Flannagáin:
In regard to the data on the 800,000 visitors and the €105 million benefit to the region, we in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann were very heartened by this data because prior to that the contribution had never been quantified. The research was carried out by Tourism Ireland, a body that is entirely independent from the comhaltas. That independence is hugely significant. Furthermore, Tourism Ireland has expertise in areas such as market surveys and numbers of people attending events. It was hugely significant from our point of view that this particular information became available.
Ní bheadh sé ceart mórán a rá. It would not be right for me to say too much because, as members know, I have a connection with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. However, I join in welcoming the representatives here and I was delighted to have a chat with Mr. Danny McCarthy earlier today. I admire his passion and I certainly admire anybody who takes a stand on behalf of his people. That is what he is doing.
The value of these hearings is that they are almost an extension of parliament and that a record is created. I know that my friends in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann would feel like me and would love to talk with Mr. McCarthy and co-operate with him and help the music industry. He would know the old seanfhocal - Ní neart go cur le chéile. I believe that is true and I am delighted to hear his views today and I wish him well. I understand Mr. McCarthy is also a performer and a folk singer.
An unemployed folk singer. To be fair, what we want to do is to hear the views of people who face challenges at this time. Based on what Mr. McCarthy has said, there are significant challenges facing us. I would like to make a quick point regarding my experience of local and community radio. I have good experience in this area and these stations seem to have an ear to the ground and to echo and reflect what is happening on the ground. It has never been easy for local radio stations, because they had to start from the bottom up. Perhaps, through dialogue, some of the issues Mr. McCarthy has raised can be addressed.
Cuirim fíor fáilte roimh na comhaltaí ó Chomhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann agus gach duine atá anseo inniu. Tá suim agam sa teanga, i damhsa, in amhránaíocht agus i ngach rud eile mar sin agus is maith liom aon uair atá seans agam iarracht a dhéanamh iad sin a chur chun cinn. Cuidím freisin leis na moltaí a ardaíodh anseo inniu, go háirithe an moladh maidir le coiste a chur ar bun chun an t-ábhar seo a phlé. Aontaím le Danny McCarthy go bhfuil an scéal amach, go háirithe maidir le RTE, nach dtugtar play time do na nithe seo. Irish artists in general are raising the same question about play time on RTE because they are not getting fair play. Gay Mitchell MEP raised it in the European Parliament. He is from a constituency close to me.
It is up to us to make our own regulations. We like to keep our independence, particularly because of our culture and language. The same argument arose years ago around the Arts Council funding and grants. Approximately ten years ago, we separated the funding for Irish culture and the traditional arts. It is time that RTE did the same. Local radio stations give them more air time because it is easy for them. Mr. McCarthy made the point that country music takes over from Irish. I like both. I am not condemning one. I like traditional and folk music. A recommendation should go from this committee that the statistics should be separated out. We will ask RTE for the statistics. We also have them from Tourism Ireland but we need to get them from the horse's mouth and we should not let RTE get away with the title "Country and Irish".
What are we going to do? We need a recommendation. When the Seamus Ennis centre was set up in Dublin, it gave classes on the uilleann pipes and manufacturing them. Many of the traditions are dying out but Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, CCE, has kept alive the traditions of music and making the instruments. There are many houses waiting for another CCE to happen. I know one in particular. There was more funding in the good old days than now. Has CCE stopped the programme in which the community worked with it on the ground? There are buildings that perhaps it could move into at very little cost. They might need a little refurbishment but it could work with local authorities on that.
I am a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, BIPA. I think it is the best thing that ever happened. It is great that for the first time, CCE and the Fleadh are going north of the Border. I congratulate it. I will make everyone on the BIPA aware that everyone there should attend in whatever capacity they want. I have attended and enjoyed the Fleadh in the past and hope to do so again in the future.
I, too, want to issue a fíor fáilte to our guests today and to thank them, particularly Mr. McCarthy. I totally empathise with him because he is right about the national broadcaster. It is not only a question of Irish music but the whole spectrum of culture and heritage across the board.
It is, but some stations do a dhícheall uaireanta chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. The local and independent radio stations have their battles with us to get a better share of the funding, as I know because I am also a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. I have been very critical of RTE, not only in respect of Irish language and culture but also on issues such as the pro-life debate when it is biased. I do not know why but it gets away with spin and does not do what it should do. CCE's problem with opportunities for jobs in industry is huge, and other committees should consider it too. Businesses and the self-employed, as Mr. McCarthy said, should be valued.
The Vice Chairman does not need to ask Tourism Ireland about the Fleadh. I was at the Fleadh in Cavan and one would know from the difficulty of trying to get accommodation or to move around the streets and attend the competitions – indeed the uachtarán was at the opening-----
I met him on the street. He was out enjoying the music too. It was fabulous. Some of my family and members of our group won an all-Ireland rince set there. They were in Ballina this year and are hoping to go to Doire. I am delighted that it is going to Doire and I wish CCE well with it. I think it will be bigger and better. It is a matter of bringing us together. There are disparate groups and they do not get any cohesive support from Government or public bodies. I compliment the Tipperary development group which is running a course on the making of uilleann pipes. It has sponsored several students of different ages to come to Dublin to learn to make that wonderful instrument. We must value what we have and now in a recession is the time to really examine it because in the boom time we forgot about these things. It is our culture, heritage and identity and we must nurture and support it.
I would like to talk to our guests again at other committees. I welcome them and thank them for their work. Comhghairdeas ó chroí le Labhrás Ó Murchú agus a bhean chéile, Úna, for all the entertainment they give in Brú Ború, a fabulous centre in Caiseal na Mumhan. Businesses from all over the world visit it. I go there a couple of times a year and there are people from different continents. CCE does good work abroad too. The work it did to showcase our heritage at recent events in Dublin Castle and elsewhere during our EU Presidency was tremendous. We are lucky to have it to do that. We should respect it. We do not promote it enough.
I have no question except a freagra for the Vice Chairman about Cavan. I would have no questions about that. In fairness to RTE, Mary Kennedy did a fabulous show the week before the Fleadh last year. I was very impressed with the arts linkages in Cavan. I am sure that will happen in Derry. I could not get over how it had been broadened out and it can be broadened out much more. Senator Ó Murchú's saying is very appropriate, ní neart go cur le chéile. I say onwards and upwards.
Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh Danny McCarthy, iar-uachtarán CCE agus na baill eile de CCE atá anseo. Tréaslaím leo as an sár obair atá á dhéanamh acu chun cultúr agus ceol na hÉireann a chur chun cinn. I do not really have any questions for CCE but I would like to ask Mr. McCarthy one or two questions. I was very impressed by CCE's presentation. I have some knowledge of it because I am from Listowel, and even though I was never an active branch member, I was a very active Fleadh organiser. Senator Ó Murchú knows that I was involved in the latter Fleadhanna in Listowel which were very successful. Listowel was very good to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann because there had been a dip in its popularity in the early 1960s and the first one in Listowel was a great success. Every one afterwards was an even bigger success. Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and CCE were, in turn, extremely good to my native town. It put our image on the map, projected us and was good financially. As someone who was in business at the time, I can assure CCE that the additional revenue it brought in to the town and the hinterland within 25 miles of Listowel was greatly appreciated. I have attended the Fleadhanna in Cavan and Tullamore, all of which are wonderful.
That is too close. I have attended them all and I am delighted that CCE has decided to bring it across the Border to Derry. It will be a wonderful event. It will be a seminal moment in our history.
I was very impressed by what Ms Ní Bhrádaigh said about the educational programme.
I was aware of the scoil éigse because it always came before the fleadh. We also do not realise there is a little industry in the making of musical instruments. If Comhaltas was not active, jobs would be lost in this area.
I compliment Comhaltas on its magazine, Treoir, which is informative and good. While I accept money is tight, if Comhaltas were looking for additional funding, I would be the first to support it. There would be tremendous support across the Oireachtas for such a request.
When I was in business, I paid a fee to the Irish Music Rights Organisation, IMRO, for playing music in my shop. I am quite shocked that 93% of that revenue stream goes to support non-Irish musicians and the non-Irish musical industry. I also had to pay another annual levy. What was this for?
I understand Comhaltas is concerned with traditional Irish music. However, does Irish music cover Declan Nerney or T.R. Dallas? Is it Christy Moore or Mary Black, is it on a much bigger scale like U2, or is it small garage bands playing rock music? Could Mr. McCarthy expand on this?
I listened to an interesting and excellent RTE documentary last bank holiday Monday on the music of the Traveller community. Does that come under Mr. McCarthy’s remit? Radio Kerry, in fairness, plays some good Irish music programmes like “Kingdom Ceilidh” and many Irish singers and musicians. Could Mr. McCarthy expand on the role of local radio?
I welcome the delegation and, in particular, if the committee does not mind me being parochial, Ms Attracta Ní Bhrádaigh from Offaly. She has been a tremendous representative both local and nationally for Comhaltas and we are all very proud of her in Offaly. The work Comhaltas has done over the years and the experience of the Fleadh in Tullamore reflected what the delegation said about other experiences nationally. It is marvellous that it will be held in Derry this year and it will be a great experience for all the participants. The young participants from Derry will be so proud to be able to play in their town and county. That is the value of moving the festival around. It is great that young people can compete in their own county, giving them extra pride.
Comhaltas flew the flag for Irish music when it was not popular to do so. It is almost cool now to be able to play an Irish instrument whereas years ago there was much competition from other musical influences from other parts of the world. I am looking forward to the Leinster Fleadh in Edenderry. My nephew will be playing at it, so I will be rooting for him.
I find the Treoir magazine a marvellous way of keeping track of what is happening in Comhaltas. I did not realise how global Comhaltas has become. Our music and entertainers are gateways into business. It is not just about preserving the culture and enriching peoples’ lives but opening doors to other activities abroad.
I thank the delegation, Comhaltas and Senator Ó Murchú for all the work they do in this area. We need to iron out the categories as to what comprises Irish music. Are musicians folk, traditional or contemporary? How do the various radio stations categorise them? Do they slot all Irish music into the "Country and Irish" category?
My local radio station, Midlands 103, is terrific for promoting traditional Irish music and young emerging Irish musicians. It is providing not just a community service but is also a successful business and will receive a midlands gateway business award. What is the relationship between IMRO and the regional radio stations? Does IMRO use the same criteria in calculating levies for these stations as it uses for RTE and larger stations?
Deputy Michael Kitt:
I thank the delegation for attending the meeting. I apologise for missing the start of the presentations but I was unintentionally held up in the Dáil.
There is a big issue as to what comprises the Irish music industry. Local radio and Comhaltas would promote Irish traditional music. Local radio is interested in request programmes which national stations tend not to be. Years ago, RTE had a programme called “Hospitals Requests” but now I suppose there are more televisions in hospital wards. Midwest Radio has very well-known presenters like John Duggan or Michael Commins. They play many requests and they would be very much in the Irish vein. Kevin Rohan on Galway Bay FM has a Monday night Irish traditional programme too.
We recently had a successful county fleadh cheoil in my village of Castleblakeney. A fleadh cheoil will be well received in a small town or village.
It was our second time to host the county fleadh cheoil. We hosted it in 2004 and it was quite successful. Some funding was provided for hosting it in 2004 but no funding has yet been provided by the local authority for funding the hosting of it this year. The guests might comment on that. It would stretch Comhaltas's resources if there is no local funding input from arts committees or local authority committees. Comhaltas would have to raise the money and would depend on voluntary efforts to secure the funding required. It is more difficult to organise a fleadh cheoil in the current economic climate if no funding is available from a local authority, vocational education body or other body? I would like to hear the guests' views on that.
Mr. Danny McCarthy:
The view of the people I represent is that local radio is as bad as RTE in terms of getting airplay for their music during the day - that is, from 7 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock in the evening. Those are the hours during which there is prime time listenership, and that is an important factor.
When I decided to examine the legislation covering broadcasting, I found that the one great word that was written in capital letters was "diversity". I decided to study the level of diversity in the Irish music industry. We have to embrace all aspects of Irish music. I am a folk singer-songwriter by profession. I have a song that received airplay in France, which sold a quarter of a million albums, but I cannot even get airplay for it in Ireland. However, I am not going down the road of talking about myself. I spoke to a great songwriter friend of mine recently, who told me that six months ago when he was being interviewed by one the local stations that was mentioned he asked for a track from his CD - which he had sent to the station - to be played, but the DJ told him that they did not keep Irish CDs on the CD files in their library. We have the most stupid, ridiculous legislation that does not empower anybody to do anything and, to compound that, we have no regulation. Midwest Radio was mentioned. It is a great station and those operating it have a business whereby they can rule themselves, run their own business and cater for their own needs. I will not speak about individual radio stations, but RTE radio is a typical example. We would only get three or four tracks of Irish recordings played, if we are lucky, on one music programme, "The Ronan Collins Show" at lunchtime, of all the music programmes broadcast from 7 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock in the evening. I worked at the Ordnance Survey for 25 years and mathematics is something I love. In this respect, 92% talk radio as against 8% music does not add up, in my estimation. On Lyric FM there are two to three pure traditional radio programmes per week. That does not even give rise to a percentage ratio. The situation for us is disastrous.
I speak to songwriters and composers every day of the week who are unemployed and struggling to survive but they have the greatest qualities. They are brilliant, but we have no regulator to ensure their music gets airplay. We need to sit down and discuss this issue with the broadcasting authority. We met the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, and Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy two weeks ago and Phil Coulter was with us. The Deputy will recall that he said that if he were to write and record "The Town I loved So Well" today, it would not be played on Irish radio. That is the factual position and the reason I am here today. I am talking about something that is rotten, not in the state of Denmark but in the State of Ireland. I met Gay Mitchell, MEP, three months ago and he presented a case to the European Commission on my behalf. The European Commission has no knowledge of the ridiculous legislation to do with the 30% provision. We need to address this. I spoke the chief executive of a top music business recently and he said that 15% of those in the Irish music industry control 85% of the wealth. That is wrong. We need to change that. We need to have a middle class in this respect. When I started as a professional in 1985 I took a five-year career break from the Ordnance Survey and I kept a four-piece band employed and on the road, but I could not do that today. That is what is radically wrong. We cannot generate employment because we need access to airplay.
Regarding television, we have about 40 hours a week of imported soaps, Australian and British, and what have we got that is Irish? We have nothing. I rest my case. We have IMRO and the PPS, which collects money for the musicians who play on the recordings.
Mr. Danny McCarthy:
No; it is for all performers. The royalties are being collected. That is an example of what is happening. Around 7% of that remains here. People have told me that some of the very successful groups, such as U2 and The Corrs, have publishers in Holland, as members may have read in an article published the other day, and their royalties are going there. Some €9.25 million in royalties went outside Ireland in 2010. About €750,000 remains for Irish songwriters and composers. Is that not ridiculous? I started my business in hotels and pubs, but 49% of pubs are now closing. I travelled around the country 12 months ago to all the radio stations and I nearest I got to them was the reception desk. As I travelled to those stations I was shocked to see that the grass was growing up around the front doors of the venues in which I had performed for many years. All those venues in Tipperary, Kerry, Galway, Sligo, Leitrim and other countries are now closed.
Mr. McCarthy has put his points exceptionally well to the committee and the members will take on board his very strong feelings on this subject. I apologise for interrupting him, but time is moving on and I want to get a summation from our other guests.
Mr. Séamus Mac Cormaic:
I thank the members for listening to us. I was at the Galway fleadh in Castleblakeney and it a very enjoyable event. Deputy Michael Kitt raised the issue of funding. Any injection of funding that a Comhaltas unit gets towards running a fleadh - whether it be a Comhaltas branch or a county that is running it - from a local authority or from the State, Comhaltas is able to magnify 20 times. In other words, if somebody provides funding of €1,000 for Fleadh Cheoil na Gaillimhe to be held in Castleblakeney, such funding will back up the volunteer effort. If the volunteer effort is combined with the funding, we augment the funding at least 20 times over, maybe more. Our big strength is our volunteerism and without it our organisation and movement could not function as it does. The work of our volunteers is inspirational, including the professional back-up that is required, whether in the form of training or support. If we have to spend a significant amount of time fundraising to run events, it takes from the creative things we do, which we are very good at doing if we have the time to do them. Fundraising can be soul-destroying. We appreciate that the State has supported us significantly in recent years.
However, that was not always the case. There was a time, in fact, when we did not receive a shilling of State funding. Of course we would be delighted to receive more funding than we currently do but, in the present circumstances, we very much appreciate what we have. There are mechanisms for funding within many local authorities, including through the arts offices, where a certain level of funding is available. It is very limited but it is something. As times improve, we hope the level of funding will increase.
I assure the committee that whatever investment comes into organisations like Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is put to good use. We achieve a multiple of the initial investment in terms of outcomes. An investment of €1,000 or €2,000, for example, to a voluntary organisation such as ours can represent a potential benefit of hundreds of thousands of euro. Sin an focal scoir atá agam. Gabhaim buíochas don choiste as ucht bheith ag éisteacht linn.
Mr. Pádraig Ó Flannagáin:
Thank you, Vice Chairman. Senator Cáit Keane asked about the establishment of new branches and the use of buildings. New branches are being formed all the time. It only takes a few enthusiastic people who can organise themselves, put their application together and set up a structure. They will receive every assistance they need from their local county board or from head office. Anybody in the organisation would be happy to help them. There is even the added advantage that the subscription to head branch that is normally payable for insurance purposes is paid for them in the first year to get them up and running. There is no obstacle to the establishment of new branches, and we welcome any and all in this regard. It would be nice to see every area represented if possible.
In regard to the availability of premises, my advice to new branches would generally be to concentrate more on activities. Schools and halls are usually available locally. One might get bogged down with other issues instead of focusing on what is important, which is the music and the Gaeilge. Branches can and usually are run in classrooms, halls and similar. Chun críochnú, gabhaim buíochas don choiste as ucht éisteacht linn inniu.
Mr. Danny McCarthy:
I have a brief point to make, which I omitted to mention earlier. Airplay is the cornerstone of our industry and the means by which we can generate marketing, sales and employment. Record companies are struggling to survive nationally. Without meaning to engage in self-praise, it has taken guts to say what I have said today. We need Government support and a commitment to the Irish music industry. Looking at Canada and France, one can see how by changing the whole structure they have created a proper industry. That is what is required in this country.
I thank the Vice Chairman and members for having me here today.
Mr. McCarthy is most welcome. That concludes our consideration of this issue and I thank the witnesses for assisting us in our deliberations. The committee will take on board the issues they raised. Go raibh míle maith agaibh agus slán abhaile.