Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
Earlier this week, I had a Zoom meeting with a number of musicians, artists, performers and dance teachers in my constituency. I am here to make a case for these performers, artists and individuals, who bring so much entertainment and creativity to our lives. I would like to start by providing the Tánaiste with a case study of one of the individuals I met earlier this week, to prove to him how much some of these businesses and individuals need financial supports.
At this stage, it is over a year since most performers last worked at a concert, a show or an event of some form. They have not had a chance to work through no fault of their own and yet they are not receiving the supports they need to keep their heads above water financially.
One man who I met has a ten-piece band. He is both highly skilled in his area and highly educated, with both an undergraduate degree and a masters in music. He is a business owner, professional musician and technician. He formed his ten-piece band in 2008 and it quickly became one of the most in-demand bands in the country. They performed at countless weddings and corporate events all over the country, including at the Aviva Stadium and Electric Picnic. Seán lost 100% of his revenues in March 2020 and yet he has overheads he must keep up to, including insurance and a van loan, amounting to roughly €1,000 per month. This is a VAT-registered business. Seán employs nine other musicians on any given night and he pays PRSI on the musicians' wages. They are not a group of people who decide to meet up and play music just for the love of it. This is their livelihood. They all went to college, just like every other professional, to master their skills. They brought their business from strength to strength through hard work and dedication.
Seán states that since the beginning of the pandemic, his business has received absolutely no support because he does not have a rate-paying premises, and that 11 months later, having managed to survive on funds he had in the bank prior to the pandemic, his funds are running dry and he has no idea how his business will survive until his band can get back to work safely. He states that he, like any rate-paying business, pays his taxes and is registered for VAT. Unlike other rate-paying businesses, he receives no support. All he asks is that they are treated fairly, that they are not kicked to touch, and that they are treated as a viable business. Music, art and entertainment are at the heart of our culture. Businesses in this sector are asking for a level playing field like every other business. It is clear that if we do not support artists, such as musicians, DJs, dancers and singers, we will see a major drainage of talent from this industry that will never return. I ask for these viable businesses and business people to be treated fairly and supported financially.
Finally, whenever we move out of this lockdown, it is important that dance schools be permitted to teach classes in socially distanced bubbles at level 3 and below. It is only fair that dance schools are treated the same as sport and other similar activities in this regard.