Wednesday, 9 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I start by agreeing with Senators McGreehan and Keogan on the need for a discussion around rural housing. One of the difficulties is that not only are people not allowed to build one-off houses in rural areas, they cannot even live in nearby villages because the required water and wastewater infrastructure is not in place. We need to have a discussion on that issue.
I welcome the news that Facebook, Twitter and several other social media giants will work with the national vaccine task force to combat the spread of disinformation and fake news. This is a very important step, but there is also a need for a Government campaign to explain the vaccine and to stand up for science.
I wish to raise the issue of the reopening of theatres, which has come up on several previous occasions. Obviously, I am disappointed by the decision of the Government in this regard. It still makes no sense that galleries, museums and cinemas are rightly open, but theatres have been excluded. My concern is that theatres cannot just open the following morning; an adequate notice period is needed. If a decision is to be made regarding theatres being allowed to open in January, that should be communicated to the theatres in plenty of time. There is a specific challenge with regard to many community theatres and not-for-profit theatres around the country. They are closed but, as they are not-for-profit organisations, they cannot avail of the same levels of business supports that commercial operators can access. We will have to support the amateur drama movement and musical theatre across the country. It will be a big challenge next year to get them all back on the road. It is very welcome that there is an additional €50 million for the Arts Council and arts funding, but we must ensure that money gets into the hands of arts venues, artists and musicians within the community. As Senators have stated many times, we need a debate in the House on the future of the arts.