Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Covid-19: New Measures: Statements
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
The lack of engagement and the disregard for the harm being inflicted on workers and businesses has left large sections of the culture and entertainment industries unable to maintain confidence in the Minister or this Government. They feel like guinea pigs being slapped in the face. This is a sector of Irish society which, despite all of the talk about engagement with stakeholders, was blindsided by the reintroduction of restrictions last week.
In addition, the public health messaging telling people not to socialise, combined with general fear and scaremongering, has led to major problems in this industry. There has been no proper response or compensation from the Government to the closure of this sector. We must remember that it is the Government that is closing this sector. We only need to look at what has happened in the past. That has not been good, and it does not augur well for the future for many musicians and performers. The Minister has refused point-blank thus far to take any responsibility for her part in the Government slashing the PUP at a crucial time for those in the entertainment industry, for performers and others whom we praised and to whom we looked up as being part of our culture. They are pivotal to the tourism industry in the future, yet all the Minister has had to say thus far is she will not be found wanting if it becomes apparent that additional supports are necessary. It is apparent. She only needs to ask any of the musicians, performers or those who had jobs lined up a fortnight ago to last over Christmas and get them through that period after sustaining a torrid time in terms of their income and ability to ply their trade. The key part is for the Minister to ask them directly. They will tell her that a week or two weeks ago they were looking forward to being able to play and to entertain people and that opportunity disappeared in a flash following a Cabinet decision and with no compensation.
Up to two weeks ago, almost 80% of musicians, deejays, entertainers and stage crew have experienced a return of less than half of their pre-pandemic work. Some 75% of those who responded to the Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland, MEAI, survey, which was carried out last week, said they are seeing their events cancelled for Christmas and that is not the end of it. This tallies also with the Amárach public opinion survey released by the Department of Health today, showing that 45% of respondents had cancelled social events between now and Christmas and many more are planning to cancel events. In the past two years, 40% of those in the sector have had to take up work outside the industry to survive. In the past two weeks a lot more will have had to take that option. A shocking 47% are considering leaving the sector for good. The Minister should think of that and of our culture in the future. This is a society that is supposed to value culture.
The Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, all but admitted in the committee today that no work had been done to provide alternative supports for this sector and nothing will be done until it gets much worse. She even tried to present as a win the €25 million cut to funding to the live performance sector in the budget. Covid-19 inflicted terrible damage on our night life, musicians and cultural life but the Minister's laissez faireapproach to that suffering could be the nail in the coffin for the hopes and dreams of many of a recovery for at least a number of years to come. She has not given serious thought to the proposal the MEAI made for a Covid support for arts workers to replace the PUP. She has given the impression that the proposals are not forthcoming. So much for making sure the plight of the workers in the sector is not going to be ignored. The workers have been ignored and it looks like that will continue to be the case.