- 30 Apr 21
Taoiseach Micheál Martin made a statement regarding the country's re-opening measures yesterday (April 29), but the measures announced weren't what MEAI had hoped for... Photo: Matt McGranaghan.
After Taoiseach Micheál Martin's announcement of tentative re-opening measures yesterday, Minister for Tourism, Culture, the Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media Catherine Martin said she was confident that the announcement could only be good news for the cultural sector.
"We are a nation that loves arts, sport and entertainment and I will do my best to help them," she said.
"I also informed colleagues today that my Department is working on proposals for a phased approach to reopening small music venues (seated only), subject to health advice. I recently established the Return to Live Entertainment Working Group, who will submit their guidelines for the Live Entertainment sector next week."
MEAI – that's the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland – have now responded to the announcement made by the Taoiseach. Read the statement in full below:
"The Sound of Silence is to continue for the live music and entertainment sector as the Government’s re-opening plans failed to include any good news for the country’s musicians and crew.
"While we welcome the phased re-opening which will see many sectors return to work, we are now 414 days without employment and that looks like continuing for some time to come.
"The Association, which represents 5,000 musicians, entertainers, road crew and others, pointed out that not only was the industry one of the sectors most severely hit by Government restrictions, but its members also now faced the threat of PUP payment cuts.
“'We were the first to close and it looks like we will be the last to re-open', Mr Matt McGranaghan, spokesman for the Association, stated.
"MEAI pointed out that a survey it carried out showed that nearly half its members are struggling to pay their bills, including mortgages and loans, and that a large number were in danger of losing a vehicle essential to their business. Forty-five per cent of members surveyed also said they were experiencing mental health problems.
"The music and live events industry supports over 35,000 jobs and contributes over €3.5 billion to the economy.
"MEAI has also written to an Taoiseach and the Cabinet in recent days outlining their concern that the sector will be discriminated against yet again if Government decides to cut the PUP (Pandemic Unemployment Payment) after June.
"They pointed out: 'We have no roadmap. No indication when ‘normal’ business can or could resume. And if the past is an indication of how we might expect the future to look, then we are looking at a reopening strategy with no provision or consideration for our sector, accompanied with a draconian cut to the single, sole, only support to workers in this sector upon which they are wholly dependent and reliant.'
"The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was cut in September 2020 to the detriment of workers in the sector, only to be increased when a wider Lockdown was introduced. This cut was accompanied by the cessation of mortgage breaks and workers in the sector have been struggling more and more since.
"'Our biggest fear is that Government will cut the PUP once more in July without creating any provision for live music and entertainment to happen in pubs, hotels, weddings and other social occasions from where the majority of performers make their living', said Mr McGranaghan.
"He added: 'Workers want nothing more than to get back working and gigging and to do so in a safe and responsible manner, but unfortunately trials have not been conducted yet to show how this could be done and so our sector is excluded from guidelines.'
"MEAI welcomed Arts Minister Catherine Martin’s announcement that her Department is planning to trial live performances and events and follow other countries who have completed successful experiments for this sector.
“'We hoped that the trials will include all forms of forms of live performances in the sector and that they will be completed in a timely manner to ensure musicians and entertainers could make the most of and enhance the summer season and the domestic tourism market', Mr McGranaghan said.
"However, the Association believes the hope that the trials will be concluded in time for the summer could be optimistic as the Department of Arts & Culture previously conducted test live performances in the Abbey Theatre and National Concert Hall in December 2020 and the outcome has still to be published.
"The live performance sector was awarded €50m in the Budget in recognition of the decimation to the sector but so far only €1m of that has been spent and MEAI is anxiously awaiting the rollout of the €14m MEBAS scheme which will offer non-competitive grant payments to businesses in the sector.
"In the meantime, said Mr McGranaghan, 'musicians are being forced to sell equipment and prized instruments in an effort to pay bills and survive.'
"The Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland has previously called on the government to reintroduce systemic payment breaks for mortgages and loans which were phased out on the 30th of September 2020. The Government declined to avail of the European Banking Authority’s reactivation of systemic payment break guidelines in December 2020 which plunged the sector in to deeper financial stress as their struggle to survive worsened. The Government did however continue mortgage breaks for local authority homeowners until March 31st 2021."