It is estimated that the economic impact of COVID-19 for the arts sector is at a loss of €20 million and above in 2020. Furthermore, it will only become worse and compound the difficulties experienced by underinvestment in the sector since 2009.
To solve this issue, in point #2 of their Pre-Budget Submission, the National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) has demanded that funding to the Arts Council must be increased to €135 million in 2021 with a view to at least doubling the investment in the Arts Council by 2025.
‘As the Irish Government’s development agency for the arts, the Arts Council is the major funder of the arts in Ireland. The Arts Council’s grant from the Irish Exchequer in 2020 is €80 million.’
NCFA calls upon the government to increase this funding of the Arts Council from €80 million in 2020 to €135 million in 2021, based on the grounds that this investment will have a direct impact on the work of artists and will protect the independence of the arts community.
Under normal circumstances, this funding may have been sufficient, however, the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector is irreversible. This is mainly because of the “nature of its activity [public-facing], the size of its companies [SMEs-Small and Medium Enterprises], the seasonality of its activity [summer dependent], and the nature of the services offered [non-essential consumer spending].” (Employment and Economic Impact Assessment of Covid-19 on the Arts Sector in Ireland)
Arts in the Irish Economy
It is hard to deny the fact, that whether you are an art fanatic or a small part of the corporate-world-whirlpool, you will be surrounded by art in one form or the other.
In these times of dissipating economies and coalition governments, you may find yourself tempted to grab a book, a paintbrush or for that matter listen to classical music. In a world without art, which might soon be, what would provide respite to regrets and reforms?
Whether it’s the painting hanging right above your head as you rest your head upon the pillow that bears the weight of a trillion thoughts, books, theatrical performances, or music, art can be seen everywhere and yet cannot be seen through the economical lens. Can emotional and societal benefits be compared with economical benefits?
However, like all normal people, artists have homes to go to, households to run and little ones to care for. This is where investment in arts can be seen as economical.
According to the Employment and Economic Impact Assessment of Covid-19 on the Arts Sector in Ireland, the impact of the pandemic on the Arts sector will be between -34.6% and -42% compared with -11% in the Irish economy as a whole. This is projected to cost between €250m and €300m to Irish GDP.
NCFA has demanded an increase in the funding to the Arts Council based on the fact that arts and culture majorly affect the tourism and hospitality sectors of Ireland.
The audiovisual content production sector of Ireland is estimated at EUR 550 million and involves 560 SMEs. The production activity in 2013 was the highest on record contributing over EUR 168 million to the Irish economy (an increase of 18% on 2012). There are 465 cinema screens in Ireland (in 70 sites) and 20% of tourists in 2012 cited film as an influencing factor in their decision to visit Ireland. (Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends)
Although Ireland’s arts, culture and creativity play a significant role in its global connection and are a unique power to increase the impact of its global footprint, the state’s total general government expenditure on recreation, culture and religion (2017) is 0.2% of GDP % of total expenditure whereas the average European is 0.6% of GDP
“Ireland is the only country in the world to have a dedicated day of free creativity for our children and young people. Although only in it’s second year, Cruinniú na nÓg has already grown in ambition and scale with almost double the number of free activities taking place across the length and breadth of the country this year.”Josepha Madigan, TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, (Progress Report 2020)
In support of the wider artistic and cultural community, the ‘#ThisIsWhoWeAre’ campaign was launched by the EPIC Working Group on 14 September and went on till 20 September 2020.
The campaign highlighted the problems of the Irish arts and concentrated on the responsibility of the Arts Council of Ireland, government ministers, and TDs for arts funding.
Arts offices are dependent on funding allocated to them by the local authority and the Arts Council. Arts and Culture are locally led by these offices. Therefore, to ensure funding at local levels, Arts Council funding would play a significant role.
All local authorities determine their funding and spending priorities in their annual budgets. The elected members of a local authority are accountable for all expenditure by the local authority.
However, with the notable disparity in the provision for arts throughout the country, it can be said that some elected members consider arts a high priority while others do not. This is why the #ThisIsWhoWeAre campaign invited massive public support to urge TD’s to take action and bring about a policy in the Dáil.
In their Pre-Budget Submission, NCFA has demanded an increase in funding for the Arts Council for 2021 with a view to at least doubling investment in the Arts Council by 2025 as was promised in 2017 by the former government led by current Tánaiste Leo Varadkar
Announcing the strategy of Budget 2021, Department of Finance; Department of Public Expenditure and Reform stated that the budget for the year 2021 will prioritise a continued response to the COVID-19 crisis rather than ‘normal’ budgetary adjustments and “any further measures will be targeted at the three priorities in the Programme for Government – health, housing and climate change.”
Commenting on the budget strategy Minister Paschal Donohoe said:
“Budget 2021 is being formulated against the background of the continued economic, financial and wider societal fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic and against the threat of a disorderly ending of the transition period which governs bilateral trade between the EU and UK. With limited resources available, the priority of the forthcoming Budget must be to provide support to those areas most in need.”
Budget 2021 will provide support for the sectors of the economy most in need in the short-term, while also targeting an improvement in the headline fiscal position.
Among sectors that are ‘most in need in the short-term’, the Arts sector is the first to close and is likely to remain the last to reopen.
“Artists and arts workers make Ireland a vibrant and exciting place to live. They represent our country with world-class performance and creativity across the globe while living in uncertainty and, in some cases, in poverty at home. They are talented and highly skilled workers who pursue poorly paid careers that contribute much to society, often with very little in return. “NCFA