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Minister defends live performance ban for pubs and restaurants but musicians criticise 'sledgehammer approach'

Live music will not be permitted at food and beverage facilities under new guidance.

Image: Shutterstock/totojang1977

THE ARTS AND Culture Minister has defended new rules which ban live music in pubs, restaurants and hotels, while musicians have said the guidelines are ‘frustrating’ and called for a more nuanced approach.

Under guidance released by Fáilte Ireland yesterday, live music will not be allowed at indoor or outdoor facilities serving food and drinks when they reopen. Loud music is also not permitted at these facilities.

Outdoor dining is permitted from 7 June, pending final approval by the government on Friday.

Government sources have indicated that the Fáilte Ireland guidelines could be modified which will reopen live music events – large and small – in June. 

A statement from Minister Catherine Martin on the guidelines, the minister said every restriction is guided by health advice.

However, one TD said yesterday that he had already received calls from brides-to-be to get clarity on whether they could have music at their wedding. He said that there had been some expectation that last year’s measures, particularly around music, would be changed for this summer. 

Live performances are not permitted at wedding receptions under current guidance. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to examine how to get Ireland’s artists back on their feet as well as if sufficient support is available. See how you can support this project here.

One government minister told The Journal that health experts are still concerned that having music at a venue means that people talk louder, increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

The statement from the minister said she is “very aware of how badly the creative and performance sectors have been hit by the pandemic and subsequent restrictions”.

“Every restriction is guided by health advice in order to protect people but also to eliminate the spread of Covid-19 among the greater population,” the statement said. 

The statement added that the Fáilte Ireland guidelines are “in line with previous guidance communicated” and follow consultation with public health bodies such as the HSE and NPHET.  

“Nonetheless, the Government is due to make more decisions on Friday regarding the further easing of restrictions planned in the coming months, including around live performance events recommencing next month.

Although Minister Martin cannot pre-empt the Government’s decision in this regard, she has been working very closely with sectoral stakeholders to ensure their concerns are heard and perspectives understood.

“Furthermore, these tourism sectoral guidelines are subject to review or change aligned to any new regulations and the latest public health advice accordingly.”

‘Outrageous’

Matt McGranaghan, spokesperson for the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland, said he was “not entirely surprised” by the guidelines issued yesterday.

He said he would “much prefer” guidelines for safe live music performances, rather than an outright ban on gigs at bars and restaurants. 

“There are guidelines and rules put in place to allow for safe socialising, safe shopping, but they are just going to keep casting aside this industry,” he told The Journal. 

“Peoples’ mental health, peoples’ financial statuses have been hit so badly.” 

Niamh Parsons, chair of the Musicians’ Union of Ireland, said the guidance is “outrageous”. 

She said it would “decimate the industry” – impacting everyone from performers to lighting and sound engineers. 

“I expected it, but there was a lot of people who were hopeful that something, especially outdoors, would be permitted,” Parsons said. 

We were very aware from the first lockdown, that we would be the last to be allowed do anything, but musicians have really, really suffered.

“I have heard of situations where people are having to sell their instruments to just make ends meet.”

She said the “blanket ban” on live performances “really is not helping anybody”. 

A musician from Kildare, Pete Kavanagh, said he felt “sheer frustration” after seeing the guidelines. 

Kavanagh performed in small venues, theatres and cafes before the pandemic. 

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“Musicians seem to be way down in the pecking order when it comes to everybody going back to business,” he told The Journal. 

“You could have an acoustic duo or jazz trio – there are so many formations of bands they can have that doesn’t necessarily involve us all standing on tables shouting.

“There just seems to be kind of a sledgehammer approach to the issue.

Any musician worth their salt understands the venue they’re playing in and adapts accordingly, and plays music that suits.

At the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night, Senator Lisa Chamber also raised concerns about the guidelines for dining and beverage facilities. 

She said the guidance micro-manages how people run their businesses and that it made no sense to ban music performances and close facilities by 11.30pm. 

About the author:

Orla Dwyer and Christina Finn

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