- 14 Sep 21
185 pilot sporting events were approved this summer while only 22 arts festivals got the go-ahead.
The government has been accused of discrimination against the arts sector after 185 pilot sporting pilot events went ahead this summer, while only 22 arts pilot events were approved.
The government recently made moves to ease Covid-19 restrictions on outdoor events and it saw the approval of 170 sporting events by Statutory Instrument. Some of these events were double and triple headers which brought that number up to 185.
Sporting events with attendances lower than 200 or 500 also did not need specific government approval and may also have gone ahead in outside venues.
In this period, only 22 arts or culture events were staged with the largest cultural event being the pilot festival in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham which housed 3,500 attendees. The men’s senior All-Ireland final between Mayo and Tyrone hosted 40,000 fans in Croke Park last Saturday (September 11).
According to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media - only 22 arts or culture events were sanctioned “in order to evaluate and build confidence in the Covid guidance and event management protocols developed by the arts/culture and live entertainment sectors.”
A spokesperson from the department defended the significantly lower number of arts events in comparison to sports events saying:
"It is worth noting that sporting and live entertainment events are very different in both nature and economics. Sport events were also testing our guidelines which provide for the safe return of spectators in different scenarios and at different scales.
"In preparing the guidance for the safe return of spectators to sports grounds input was received from international sporting governing bodies like UEFA and World Rugby. In addition, the experience of European neighbours and others such as college football and the NFL in the USA was drawn upon,” the statement continued.
"Most of the sporting events were proceeding regardless of the attendance of fans or not. This is not the case in the arts/culture and live entertainment sector. Instead sufficient scalable pilots were held to test the guidance documents which underpin the safe reopening of the sector.
"Following on from these pilots, the minister focussed on a roadmap for the resumption of viable live performance.
"This didn’t happen as quickly as the Government wanted due to the emergence of the delta variant but with the announcement of the Government's Reframing the Challenge plan, the Minister was delighted to be in a position to provide a roadmap for the full return of arts/culture and live entertainment,” the statement concluded.
Those working in the arts and culture sectors have been starved of employment since the pandemic began. The musical climate in Ireland has been stifled as musicians, artists and other sector workers have had to find other work to support themselves.
Matt McGranaghan from the Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) said:
"There are greater examples of discrimination that this industry has endured over the last 18 months" when talking about discrimination against the arts based on a significantly higher number of sporting events going ahead than in the arts.
"MEBAS (Music and Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme) was a grant paid to people in the industry depending on certain criteria. It was the only one where you had to show your business costs over the past 14 months. No other business support grant had to show that. If you want to look at clear, unadulterated discrimination you can point to that."
McGranaghan made the point that sports events could go ahead without crowds, whereas music arts and culture events could not. He also said the use of term discrimination in this instance was misguided albeit understandable. However, he also said the lack of support for people in the industry has been ongoing since the pandemic began, with the effects of this still to be seen.
"We have plenty of issues come down the line that we have to address to protect livelihoods," he said. McGranaghan pointed to how the lack of support has affected those in the industry.
"We recently did a survey and over 20% have had to take up other employment and over 40% have considered it." He believed this was due to a lack of government understanding of how the arts industry works and a lack of representation for those in the sector.
Although McGranaghan pointed out the significant damage that has been to the industry due to a lack of support, he also acknowledged some of the good the government has done in the broader spectrum of the pandemic.
"So many things have been badly managed and similarly we have to be balanced, certain things were done incredibly well," he added.