Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Covid-19: Reframing the Challenge, Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting: Statements


3:45 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

This week was meant to be a happy occasion for the entertainment sector, in particular, given the reopening after nearly two years of lockdown when we did not have as much of the vibrant cultural life we had before we all went online. Instead, it is all confusion, contradictory messages and gobbledygook. 100% is not 100% is the message people have got. People can sit and maybe stand, but only stand on a seat or stand next to a seat. People cannot stray or mingle and, God forbid, cannot dance unless they are in a nightclub. While in nightclubs, masks will be required, that is not the case when dancing, drinking or eating.

It is not clear, some wags would say, if it is allowed to wear the face off a partner - or somebody else's partner, maybe. There are a lot of questions. They have been posed since the announcements on Tuesday. If a concert is held in a nightclub, can there be dancing? Nobody sat down and looked at the practicalities of the stupid guidelines that have been mentioned and which are still being written, seemingly.

There is and always has been a chance that the Government might not fully reopen if the Covid numbers were on the wrong trajectory. That is what planning for eventualities is about. While we have been told that all will be revealed and clarified in the latest Covid-19 guidelines, they are like the fourth secret of Fátima. They are still hurriedly being cobbled together as I speak. On Tuesday the overview of public health measures and exemptions from the Department stated that the guidelines would be developed only for nightclubs. What is it to be? What happens to the venues and performers who sold tickets for gigs involving standing room or promised their clientele the chance to dance based on the advance pronouncements Government Ministers made about reopening? What about the nightclubs due to open tomorrow? How will they be able to comply with guidelines which still have not been written, never mind published? We are hearing stories of bars and venues that have hired new staff in preparation for reopening, with events being sold out in advance, now faced with laying off those same staff and not opening at all. Sarah O'Keeffe, a constituent of my colleague, Deputy Ward, summed it up perfectly when she said that a multitude of gig tickets have been sold over recent weeks assuming that they will proceed at 100% capacity and that to impose a requirement for indoor gigs to be fully seated, giving the organisers three days' notice, is financially unviable and logistically impossible. To do this to an industry that has desperately sought to engage with the Department to come up with reasonable solutions and to ensure maximum safety at these events is absolutely reprehensible. The Government has had months to plan for various possibilities and it is inexplicable that it has only one plan and that there was no plan B. What were all the oversight groups and the recovery task force doing during this time? What were the Ministers' Departments doing in this time?

The only clear message musicians and performers are getting from the Government is that their pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, is being cut. Next week a large cohort of musicians and industry workers will receive their last pandemic unemployment payment. They have already seen their payments decrease, despite having no work to go to. We know that this industry will not recover until next summer. Tá ár bhféiniúlacht mar náisiún ag brath air. Tá ár n-earnáil turasóireachta ag brath air. Tá meabhair ár sochaí ag brath ar an tsiamsaíocht - an ceol, an rince, an ragaireacht agus an gliondar. Dá bhrí sin, caithfear cinntiú gur féidir leis na ceoltoirí, na rinceoirí agus na healaíontóirí an fód a sheasamh chun nach gcaillfimid iad de thairbhe neamhairde, dímheasa ná easpa tacaíochta ón Stát. Ba é an Stát a dhún earnáil na siamsaíochta síos sa chéad dul síos agus, dá réir, tá ualach air í a chothú go dtí go mbeidh a gnó go hiomlán oscailte athuair.

I do not believe the Government appreciates clearly the gravity of the crisis in this sector. Musicians and performers are leaving the industry in their droves, and no wonder: as I said, their PUP is being cut. Many promising artists are now thinking of emigration. That would be a shame and a scandal and it would be on the Government.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.