Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:32 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I gcónaí. I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Peter Finnegan, all the staff, all the Members of the House, the ushers, the Garda Síochána and anyone else with whom we interact for their courtesy throughout the year. I wish them a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.

I am delighted that the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, is here. I wish to plead for the artists, the musicians, the ceoltóirí and na daoine óga agus aosta. They are so troubled at the moment. They are penniless. Why is it that the majority of musicians and workers in the music industry, including lighting engineers, sound engineers and everybody else, are always left out when it comes to supports? It always seems to be the venues or the big organisations, including the Arts Council, that get funded, and the funding does not trickle down to the grassroots, the music on the ground and the music man or music woman or the one-piece, two-piece, three-piece or four-piece band. They are penniless now. With whom does the Government engage when it comes to deciding who gets what? With whom does the Department with responsibility for arts engage? The latter is more important as it seems that it is listening to the wrong people. It is listening to powerful lobby groups and big organisations and they are getting the funding while the man and woman on the ground, as so often happens, are left penniless. I am pleading with the Government. Can it get the PUP rolled out such that there are no hoops to jump through? All the gigs, as we know, have been cancelled on the back of a miserably failed reopening plan that the Government initiated. Then NPHET's actions, before Cabinet decides on them or the Taoiseach addresses the nation, were leaked. This devastated every hotel and pub. Everything was cancelled for Christmas. Christmas was almost cancelled. But for the resilience of Santy, the Government would cancel it, and that is a horrible thing to have to say. The pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, has been reduced twice, and now these people have come off the payment in good faith to go back to what they love, to sing, to enhance people's lives, to entertain and to give solace to people. They tried to do that and then the Government pulled the rug from under their feet.

I ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform or the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, to get involved today with the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland, MEAI, and others because it is almost Christmas week. It is our second last day here, and many of these people have sold their vans or some of their equipment. The banks are now foreclosing on some of their mortgages. It is an awful situation for these people from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and all its musicians, led by the wonderful Labhrás Ó Murchú, iar-Sheanadóir, to people like Willie Bun and Paul Lafford to Dom O'Driscoll and Trudi Lalor. I could name a string of them all day. They are in every parish and every townland. They give of themselves. They give solace to the people longing for music, song and dance. They have been locked up and incarcerated for 19 months, facing a second similar Christmas, and they need that stimulation. It is part of our culture and heritage. Is the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, going to wipe it out? Has she some kind of death wish against these people? She will not deal with them. She will not talk to them. The Minister, Deputy McGrath, met them, and I appreciate the bona fides of the Minister, Deputy Martin, but I believe there is some issue with senior officials in her Department who are not allowing these small people, these wonderful people to perform. I do not mean small in stature. My God, their stature is huge because of the mental health issues they resolve and the solace and well-being they give to people in getting them out there listening to songs and having a dance and a bit of craic. That is all they want. They are not robbing people. The venues are very cheap. The venues also are getting hammered but my plea today is on behalf of these musicians. I am pleading with the Government to think of them before Christmas. They are penniless.


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