WITH THE GENERAL election less than a week away, the parties vying to take over government are full of promises.
Some of those promises, as outlined in their policy documents, involve the arts.
Earlier this week, IMRO, the Irish Music Rights Organisation, set out its stall for what it wants from the Government. It said that there has been very little focus on the future of Irish music by parties in the campaign, and that the industry needs more support if it wants to keep producing overseas successes.
Victor Finn, Chief Executive Officer of IMRO, told TheJournal.ie that they are calling on the next government to implement the following:
- A Music Industry Taskforce, with representatives from Government, the business community and industry
- Appointing an IP ‘Tsar’ to consider the impact of IP and copyright legislation and enforcement in both the music and technology industries
- The development of advanced training courses for music professionals to focus on ‘business of music’ education
- Establishing a Music Office – Music Ireland – similar to the Irish Film Board
- Greater support for musicians in accessing finance and ensuring that fiscal supports are effective and appropriately structured.
“Almost all of the parties are missing an opportunity to focus on music in particular,” Finn said. “The research we’ve published over the last 18 months shows that music is worth almost half a billion to the economy on an annual basis, and supports 11,000 jobs.”
He said there should be more focus on the export potential of music. “We really welcome the fantastic achievements in the area of film,” he said, describing how it demonstrates “the potential of an industry when you get structures right and support right”.
The recent success of the film industry didn’t happen overnight – it’s because of a succession of government policy in this area over the last decade and a half that’s resulted in the recent nominations in awards ceremonies.
Creating more Hoziers in Ireland
IMRO believes there are similar supports and structures that could be in place for the music industry.
The Irish music export office, for example, would help musicians and artists who want to make it abroad. Countries like the UK, Sweden and Canada already have similar initiatives in place.
Ireland does have First Music Contact and Culture Ireland, and Finn said that he feels these organisations “should be supported more than they currently are” and that the process could be more coordinated – a ‘one-stop shop’, if you will.
He also believes that if IMRO’s proposals are put into place, there is potential for and extra 800 jobs.
He said that a Hozier “comes along in Ireland every 10 or 15 years or less”. “We could up this frequently if we shone a light on what we have,” he pointed out.
With regard to the importance of an IP Tsar, Finn said:
“We’ve got to be very careful in how we adopt copyright laws going forward. We have to ensure fair balance between creators of music in particular and technology companies on the other hand who are exploiting copyright.”
According to Finn, “if the current trend continues it would be very difficult to justify people seeking a fulltime career in music and that would be a really sad indictment of policy makers here”.
We’re not looking for handouts – we’re looking for the framework for people to earn a fair return for creativity for what they produce.
What are the main parties’ arts policies?
A look at the arts policies from the main parties in this year’s election shows that while some have interesting ideas, not all of them think outside the box. The main promises are extra funding for existing structures like the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board, and, as Victor Finn pointed out, there aren’t that many specific mentions of music.
One good thing, however, is that they all promise to plough more money into the sector.
Here are the main pledges from the parties, in no particular order.
- Invest €150m into Irish culture and the arts, including doubling the budgets of the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board,
- Set up a new Arts Capital Fund
- Reform and increase supports to artists – changing the rules around jobseeker payments to relax activation rules for people involved in ongoing artistic work.
- Establish a global arts forum for Ireland “to support and showcase our artistic talents on a world stage”.
It also wants to establish a Department of Culture “to strengthen and consolidate the State’s work in the areas of arts, heritage, the Gaeltacht, and Irish language affairs”.
It wants “an appropriate arms-length relationship between Government and publicly-funded arts bodies to ensure artistic integrity is not undermined”.
If returned to Government, Labour would also undertake a full review of the rights of artists in Ireland.
Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party are new kids on the block, but they’re all pretty experienced in the political world.
- Move funding of the arts from local authorities to the Arts Council
- Ensure cultural institutions like the Abbey Theatre have a countrywide touring and exhibitions policy
- Reintegrate our main cultural institutions.
The Green Party
There’s mention of planning laws in the Green Party’s policy, but there’s also a lot about funding. It has a pretty comprehensive arts policy, but will it get enough seats to make a difference?
If it came to power, it would:
- Increase funding to statutory agencies, including the Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland and the Arts Council by €30m
- Introduce multi-year funding for arts organisations to allow for longer-term planning
- Ensure that contemporary art education is introduced at primary and secondary levels
- Ensure the continuance of Section 481 tax breaks
- Ensure that local authorities allocate sufficient funding to allow the fulfillment of long-term strategic cultural and arts planning
- Restore Culture Ireland as an independent organisation
It would also introduce a match-funding scheme for arts organisations, totalling €5m, for groups that fundraise themselves in rural and peripheral communities.
In addition, it would review the national planning legislation to provide a minimum of 2% space for artistic, cultural and creative space in all new large scale development and cultural quarters.
Fianna Fáil stands a chance of getting back into government, and if it does, it would create an “arts strategy for all”.
This would include:
- Ensuring local authorities will implement a local arts action plan
- Re-establishing the autonomy of Culture Ireland and increase funding by €2.3 million
- Increase Arts Council funding by €10m annually
In addition, it would enhance arts provision in our educational system and increase music provision in primary schools through increased funding for Arts Council-financed arts in schools programmes.
Fine Gael stands a good chance of holding onto power after the general election, so we might well get to see if it holds firm on its arts policy promises.
In its policy document, it devotes decent space to the arts, and its approach seems to be mainly a consultative one.
It says it would publish the first-ever national cultural policy, Culture 2025. Its publication would be followed by a widespread consultation process. In addition, it would be supported by a National Culture Consultation Day, a title which, if we’re honest, isn’t the sexiest.
Again we see more focus on the Arts Council. Fine Gael would work with it ”to ensure more artists, arts organisation and events are supported”. It would also work at increasing transparency in the Arts Council’s decision-making processes.
It would introduce a new small grants scheme to provide essential upgrades to existing regional arts and cultural centres, and a programme to increase the participation of young people, particularly in socially disadvantaged areas, in their local theatres.
One interesting suggestion it has is the rolling out of a national musical instrument library for young people. It doesn’t, however, provide information on how this would be put together.
The party would also introduce an award that rewards Irish based artists for their work.
In relation to film, it would work with the Irish Film Board to ensure that Ireland is “maximised as a location for international production” and will also work to improve the Section 481 tax relief.
It also wants a new “online portal” to act as a skills database for the audio-visual sector.
The arts merits quite a small mention in Sinn Féin’s policy document, coming under the heading of ‘job creation in the arts and tourism sectors’.
- It would increase funding to the Arts Council by 45% over the lifetime of the next government and “ensure all grants and awards are made fairly and transparently”.
- It said it would also support better pay for creatives through engagement with relevant bodies like the Irish Writers Union.
- It would also support artists in their lobbying for a better return from publishing and distribution companies.
- It would also maintain film relief as a way of supporting the Irish film industry.
Their policy is described as a “policy of evidence-based decision making”, and they say successive governments have largely ignored the arts as an afterthought, pointing out there has been a 55% cut in arts funding since 2008.
They would review arts funding and administration and consult with stakeholders across the arts sector; form a new advisory body of arts practitioners and administrators; establish a new Department for the Arts, Culture and Communications.
They would also establish a digital broadcasting unit within RTÉ
What do you think about their policies? Let us know in the comments.